Kingsmill massacre: Coroner to raise On the Run scheme with government
- 9 April 2014
- From the section Northern Ireland
NI's most senior coroner is to ask the government to reveal if suspects in the Kingsmill massacre were included in the On the Run scheme.
The letters assured the recipients they were not being sought by police.
Ten Protestant workmen were murdered by the IRA in the attack in south Armagh in 1976.
John Leckey said he was making the request after a relative raised concerns that several potential suspects had received them.
The move came after a lawyer for Beatrice Worton, whose son Kenneth was killed, criticised the Chief Constable Matt Baggott, for refusing to disclose whether Kingsmill suspects were processed through the OTR scheme.
At the preliminary hearing in Belfast's Coroner's Court, a lawyer representing Mr Worton's mother said she harboured grave concerns that some of those suspected of killing her son had received the letters.
Mr Leckey said he would write to Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers seeking her comment on claims from a mother of one of the victims that suspects may have been included in the contentious administrative scheme to deal with OTR republicans.
"I would like a substantive response sooner rather than later," Mr Leckey told a preliminary inquest hearing in Belfast.
Mr Leckey is presiding over a new inquest into the shootings at Kingsmill, which was ordered by Northern Ireland's Attorney General, John Larkin, last August after a long campaign by bereaved relatives.
The textile workers were shot dead by the side of a road near the County Armagh village after a gang of masked gunmen flagged down the minibus they were travelling home from work in.
The killers asked all the occupants of the vehicle what religion they were.
The only Catholic worker was ordered away from the scene and the 11 remaining workmates were then gunned down. Only one survived, despite being shot 18 times.
No-one has ever been convicted of the murders.
A report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) in June 2011 found that the IRA was responsible for the atrocity and that the victims were targeted because of their religion.
The On the Run scheme was set-up in the early 2000s as part of a peace process deal between the government and Sinn Féin, and enabled fugitives to establish whether police in the UK were actively seeking them.
Around 190 republicans were subsequently sent letters.
Although the letters assured the recipients they were not being sought by police, they made clear that recipients could be prosecuted if new evidence arose.
Details of the scheme emerged during the trial of John Downey, who was on trial for the murder of four soldiers in the IRA's Hyde Park bomb in 1982.
The case against Mr Downey, 62, from County Donegal, collapsed in February after a judge found he had been wrongly sent one of the letters, when in fact the Metropolitan Police were looking for him. Mr Downey had denied involvement in the attack.
A series of separate investigations are currently being carried out into aspects of the wider OTR scheme, including a judge-led review ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron.
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee is also conducting its own inquiry.