Northern Ireland

Paisley urged to withdraw IRA slur on Reavey brothers

Ian Paisley
Image caption Ian Paisley made his remarks under parliamentary privilege

Ian Paisley has been challenged to withdraw remarks made in 1999 linking innocent murder victims to the IRA.

Catholic brothers John Martin, Brian and Anthony Reavey were shot dead in their home at Whitecross in south Armagh by the UVF in January 1976.

A special Assembly debate heard how Mr Paisley alleged under parliamentary privilege that their brother was behind the next day's Kingsmill massacre.

They were all later cleared of being in the IRA and any wrongdoing.

In the Assembly's last day before adjourning for the summer, SDLP Newry and Armagh assembly member Dominic Bradley said: "Ian Paisley is known as 'the big man' - he now has the opportunity to show that he is big, not just in stature, but in heart and in mind as well.

'Do the right thing'

"I hope for the sake of Sadie Reavey (88-year-old mother of the victims) that he matches up to that description.

"Many more people died in South Armagh and I remember all of them here this evening. I hope that their loved ones get the truth which they deserve.

"I ask this House to join me in that sentiment and to recognise the innocence of the murdered Reavey brothers and the whole family, and to join me in urging Dr Paisley to do the right thing by them."

Ulster Unionist Newry and Armagh MLA Danny Kennedy challenged claims of widespread security force collusion in South Armagh killings.

He said blanket criticisms of security forces in the past by nationalist politicians had raised tensions.

"None of those events should have happened," he said.

"Can I say that in relation to specifically the murder of the three Reavey brothers, Brian, John Martin and Anthony who died some weeks later, it is my belief that they were murdered in a very cruel and callous manner and that they were entirely innocent victims.

"And I place that on the record and I have no doubt of that."

Sectarian shootings

At the time of the Reavey murders, 16 people were killed in 24 hours.

The victims of the spate of sectarian shootings included three members of the Catholic O'Dowd family who were killed by gunmen on the same night as the Reavey family murders.

Joseph O'Dowd, 61, and his nephews Barry O'Dowd, 24, and Declan O'Dowd, 19, were killed, while Barney O'Dowd, father of the boys, was seriously injured.

Sinn Fein MLA John O'Dowd is a relative, and he spoke of how he heard of the attack.

Unionists challenged Sinn Fein speakers over the legacy of IRA violence, but Mr O'Dowd said: "I know members opposite have lost loved ones in similarly horrible circumstances.

"And their pain is no different from any other family's pain, whether you be an innocent civilian, whether you be a republican activist, or whether you be a member of one of the British services that lost their lives during the conflict.

"The pain is no different to a family member."

The day after the Reavey brothers were killed, 10 Protestant workmen were murdered by the IRA at Kingsmills in south Armagh. Two people survived the attack.

Mr Bradley later said no speaker had risen to defend Ian Paisley's claims, and he should now apologise to the family.

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