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‘I do feel vindicated, but I am still angry that it took all these years’

18 November 2020 - by aine@newryreporter.com

South Armagh peacemaker Eugene Reavey says he feels vindicated after claims he was involved in the Kingsmillss massacre almost 45 years ago were described as ‘utterly false’ at Westminster.

In 1999, former first minister and DUP leader Ian Paisley used parliamentary privilege to falsely accuse Mr Reavey of involvement in the Kingsmills attack in January 1975, in which 10 Protestant workmen were singled out and murdered.

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

Mr Paisley died in 2014 never having apologised for making the claims.

The Kingsmills attack happened the day after two of Mr Reavey’s brothers, John Martin (24) and Brian (22), were shot dead by members of the Glenanne Gang, which included members of the RUC, UDR and UVF, at their family home near Whitecross. 

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

 

Record corrected

 

Last Wednesday, Labour MP and Camlough man Conor McGinn spoke at a debate, led by Colum Eastwood, requesting the Hansard record be corrected to note Mr Paisley’s false accusation as well as Eugene Reavey’s innocence.

“Whatever the motivation behind making the allegation, it caused incredible pain and it was completely and utterly false,” said Mr McGinn, who is an MP for St Helens in England and Labour’s shadow security minister. 

“The police, including the then chief constable, as well as historical enquiries investigations are very clear that Eugene Reavey had no involvement whatsoever in Kingsmills and I think it’s right that the record is corrected here today.”

Mr Eastwood described the accusation as ‘scurrilous’, adding: “Eugene Reavey is one of the most decent, upstanding people I know and what was said about him was absolutely wrong, totally hurtful and why anybody would think that you pile more pain onto a family, one of many families, and think that would have some sort of value, I just do not understand.”

Northern Ireland Office (NIO) minister Robin Walker thanked Mr McGinn for raising Mr Reavey’s case and stated ‘that the PSNI’s Historical Enquiries Team found no wrong-doing whatsoever by Eugene Reavey in the incident that he raises’.

 

Bittersweet

 

Mr Reavey, a farmer, clearly remembers how difficult life was when he was named by Mr Paisley as a planner in the attack.

“To be associated with Kingsmillss or have your name mentioned in the same sentence the way Paisley accused me and others was horrific,” he said.

“A lot of my neighbours stopped talking to me. Although on the day afterwards, I had maybe 20 people sitting around the table in my kitchen, half of them Protestant friends, who said they didn’t believe a word of it and it wouldn’t make a difference to our relationship, but then other people should have known better but just because Ian Paisley said those words, they believed it and maybe if it was someone else, they wouldn’t have believed it. 

“It was a very difficult time for my wife and family because we were living on the roadside here. There was a ceasefire at the time and only for that ceasefire, I would probably have had to leave home. I have never been arrested and never been questioned about Kingsmills in my life to this day.

“A few days after this happened, in 1999, we met with the chief constable and he met with the press from all over the world and he told them that the RUC did not wish to speak to me about Kingsmills or any other outstanding matters. 

“But Paisley kept standing over his comments so it left that doubt and anyone who wanted to believe it had Paisley’s comments. I had no recourse because it was said under privilege.”

Mr Reavey said he is relieved to have his name cleared, however, he added that it is bittersweet.

“As I come to the end of my lifetime, I would have been very upset if anything happened to me and the record said that I had involvement in organising the Kingsmills massacre,” added Mr Reavey.

“I wouldn’t have liked for my family to have to live with that. But it is a bittersweet thing as I do feel vindicated, but I am still angry that it took all these years.”

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