Northern Ireland

Kingsmills: Kyle Paisley cancels meeting with Eugene Reavey

The Twitter statement from Kyle Paisley pulling out of a meeting with Eugene Reavey, who his father accused of being being the Kingsmills Massacre
Image caption Kyle Paisley tweeted: 'Confidence has been broken on what had been a matter of private correspondence'

A son of the late Ian Paisley has pulled out of a meeting with a man his father accused of involvement in one of worst atrocities of the Troubles.

In 1999, Ian Paisley used parliamentary privilege to name Eugene Reavey as a planner of the 1976 IRA attack at Kingsmills in County Armagh.

The then RUC chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan said there was no evidence linking Mr Reavey to the murders.

Ten Protestant workmen were killed in the attack.

Kyle Paisley tweeted there was "now no possibility of my meeting with Eugene Reavey".

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Eugene Reavey said Ian Paisley's allegations were a terrible slur

The U-turn was down to the way the matter had been handled, said Mr Paisley.

"Confidence has been broken on what had been a matter of private correspondence," he said in his Twitter statement.

"My only purpose in saying that I would meet Mr Reavey was to offer Christian sympathy on a personal level," he added.

Mr Reavey told the BBC he was disappointed that the meeting had been called off.

"No confidences were broken and I was genuinely looking forward to the meeting going ahead as I have had to live with this slur for more than 20 years," he said.

"I never asked Kyle Paisley to apologise on behalf of his father.

"I wanted the meeting to take place in the spirit of reconciliation and to see where it would lead to," he added.

Loyalist gunmen

The night before the Kingsmills murders, on 4 January 1976, two of Mr Reavey's brothers, John Martin, 24 and Brian, 22, were shot dead by loyalist gunmen who burst into their home in Whitecross, County Armagh.

His 17-year-old brother, Anthony, was also shot and died later in hospital.

In spite of calls for no retaliation from the Reavey family, the following day republican gunmen stopped the workmen's minibus at Kingsmills and shot dead 10 of them. Alan Black, the only survivor, was seriously injured.

In 2007, Eugene Reavey said the Historical Enquiries Team accepted that none of his brothers was in the IRA.

Last year, Mr Reavey wrote to Kyle Paisley, who is a minister at Oulton Broad Free Presbyterian Church in Suffolk, asking for a meeting.

The BBC has obtained a copy of the reply from Mr Paisley to Eugene Reavey, written in March 2016.

Image copyright EUGENE REAVEY
Image caption Kyle Paisley's reply to Eugene Reavey

In the letter, Mr Paisley said: "Last year, I watched a BBC documentary which showed that the Kingsmills massacre, the evening following the killing of your brothers, was not something random or spur-of-the-moment, but had been planned well in advance of its being carried out.

"It is evident that it was not in retaliation for what happened the night before, and that it was not carried out in the name of the Reavey family.

"Like you, I would welcome the opportunity to meet, and I hope that it works out."

Mr Reavey, from County Armagh, said being wrongly accused in 1999 of masterminding the murders was a terrible stigma to live with.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Ian Paisley's son Kyle said he will not now meet Eugene Reavey

By using parliamentary privilege to make the accusation about Mr Reavey, Mr Paisley could not be legally challenged over his remarks.

Mr Reavey said: "It was a terrible slur especially since my brothers and some of the boys killed (at Kingsmills) were very friendly.

"It finished off my cattle breeding business. Some of the people I had known for 25 years or more just turned their backs on me and walked away."

In a BBC Radio Ulster documentary, If Truth be Told, Mr Reavey revealed that he wrote to Ian Paisley "more than 20 times" asking him to retract his remarks, but did not receive a reply.

'Clear Reaveys not involved'

Dave Cox, who was head of the Historical Enquiries Team, said it had conducted a review of the original Kingsmills investigation in 2007 and it "was clear" the Reaveys were not involved in the massacre.

"The involvement of the Reaveys, and Eugene in particular, were not lines of inquiry at the forefront and our review of Kingsmills made that quite clear," he said.

"I think it has been put in the public domain and it talks about a number of suspects that the RUC looked at, and indeed we looked at, and indeed the PSNI may still be looking at."

Alan McBride of the victims group, Wave, said: "I'm not sure what happened there [the meeting being cancelled], but I know tonight that Eugene Reavey is devastated about it."

"Eugene was very, very clear that he wasn't asking Kyle Paisley for an apology on behalf of his late father. All he wanted to do was to have a meeting."

If Truth Be Told will be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster on Sunday at 12:30 BST.

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