Arlene Foster’s Moderate Speech, Barry McElduff’s Idiotic Tweet, And The Atrocious Kingsmill Massacre

It says much for the extreme and unforgiving nature of mainstream unionism or British separatist politics on this island, that a relatively moderate speech by Arlene Foster, the leader of the hard-right Democratic Unionist Party, can be transformed by the press in Ireland and the United Kingdom into a Mandela-like gesture of peace and reconciliation. The weekend address by the DUP boss to the Killarney Economic Conference in Kerry has become the subject of eulogies among the proxy-unionists in the Irish media, more for what it didn’t say than what it did.

Gone was the militant, “no surrender” tone of recent years, replaced instead with a far more conciliatory air. Enough, at least, for the Fermanagh MLA to be recast overnight as the harbinger of yet another new dawn of pro-union outreach to the nationalist community, north and south of the UK-imposed border. But as Ken Maginnis might say, one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and it remains to be seen if the former first minister will follow through on what her colleagues and PR people are representing as a brave gesture of goodwill (noting her arduous five hour journey from her home in one part of the country to a luxury hotel in another part of the country to make her “dignified” speech).

Of course, being Ireland, with the sun must come a little rain, and the ex-head of the rival Ulster Unionist Party, David Trimble, represented the distant rumble of thunder last week, issuing apocalyptic warnings of a “backlash” by the pro-union minority on the island if they don’t get their own way in any future Brexit deals between the United Kingdom and the European Union. According to the Irish Times, the former UUP MP claimed that he didn’t:

“…want to suggest that there’s a danger of violence from loyalist paramilitaries. But do bear in mind that movement in that direction is going to have a political consequence.”

Of course, by “loyalist paramilitaries” Trimble means British terrorists (except, in unionist eyes, it’s the Irish who have the “terrorists”). And by “movement”, he means any agreement between the democratically elected national governments in Dublin and London over the future of the UK-administered Six Counties which fails to gain the approval of the pro-union community in the disputed region. After all, unionists will not tolerate the wrong type of democracy.

Talking of disputes, I have no idea if the Sinn Féin MP, Barry McElduff, deliberately set out to taunt the unionist minority in the country with a rather inane tweet on the 5th of January, possibly referencing the infamous Kingsmill Massacre of that same month in 1976. The incident saw the murder of ten civilians near the eponymous village in County Armagh in a carefully planned ambush almost certainly carried out by volunteers of the South Armagh Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. The slaughter came in response to a litany of killings by the pro-British Ulster Volunteer Force, in particular the murder of six members of the Reavey and O’Dowd families, including a teenager and pensioner, the day before.

The aftermath of the Kingsmill Massacre, January 1976

The latter killings were the work of the UVF’s long-lived Glenanne Gang, a terror faction composed of former and serving British policemen and soldiers operating in mid-Ulster. During its eight-year reign of terror, the death squad took the lives of over 120 men, women and children, assisted by the UK Forces, particularly the Royal Ulster Constabulary or RUC, the controversial local counterinsurgency police. The deaths at Kingsmill caused a prolonged halt to its activities in the counties of Armagh, Down and Tyrone, justifying the retaliatory deaths in some eyes. However, whatever the reasons for the 1976 ambush, or its outcome, it is difficult to see the dreadful event as anything other than a war crime. Which makes the Barry McElduff tweet, if purposefully framed to cause hurt and offence, all the more reprehensible.

After two weeks of dithering and excuse-making the Tyrone politician has now resigned in no small measure of disgrace from Sinn Féin, while the DUP chief, Arlene Foster, is posing as a sort of northern F W de Klerk, with the relatives of the slain men at Kingsmill justifiably having their voices heard after too many years of being left out in the post-Troubles’ cold. However, the Reavey and O’Dowd families, as in 1976, remain silenced, the victims of the wrong type of massacre. In Britain’s legacy colony on the island of Ireland, its not just the living who are segregated but also the dead.

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19 comments

    1. My grandmother’s family are Fermanagh Protestant, I’ve visited that county and Derry for many years, but no, I’m not from the north-east. But I apply the same criteria – and criticisms – to republican actions as to unionist or British actions there, or anywhere else.

        1. Well, I had no say over the place of my birth and upbringing but I don’t believe that these things preclude me from having an opinion on the former conflict in the north-eastern part of my country. Or some experience of it.

          What are your own opinions on the controversy? Are you of the opinion that the offending tweet was innocent in nature, and taken out of context by the anti-SF media and political opponents?

          Or do you believe that the Kingsmill killings were a necessary deterrent to the British terror campaign in mid-Ulster?

          Or would you condemn both?

    2. Stop reading. Perhaps you are mistaking sarcasm for sanctimony? Either way, if the blog bothers you, there are many others (though none near as informed or well penned) that might suit you better?

  1. I find it laughable that the media in Britain and Ireland are just as clueless as ours here in the U.S. While everyone deplores an act of outright murder, no one over there bothers with the reason behind the killings in the first place. I’m emigrating to Ireland (work will dictate in which part I live), and I’m resigned to the fact that it will be whitewashed media coverage of all things political wherever I go. Can someone here clarify something I read? It said that the Catholic person taken off the bus told authorities that when the vehicle was stopped and masked gunmen boarded and told them to point out the Catholics, all the victims turned and pointed at him? Hmmm, sorry, but if that’s the case, then no loss for the community if 10 racist, sectarian filth gladly handed over what they thought was another lamb for the slaughter, and were instead given a dose of the medicine they were so willing to hand out. But I’m just an Ugly American……….

    1. Ugly and ignorant.

      “The late Richard Hughes, the only Catholic on the bus that night, never forgot that when the gunmen demanded that the Catholics step forward, the Chapman brothers, Reggie and Walter, on either side of him, each placed a hand on his arm to stop him from doing so. There had been a spate of loyalist murders in the previous days, leaving three of the Reavey family and three of the O’Dowds dead. Alan Black said that the men would have suspected this was another such attack.”
      https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/susan-mckay-barry-mcelduff-is-either-a-fool-or-a-knave-1.3348881

  2. Unbelievable response from Michael, I suppose this highlights the attitudes that could give rise to an atrocity like Kingmills in the first place. The idea that the Reavey and O’Dowd families have been silenced is also erroneous in that I have read and heard many broadcast interviews relating to their murders, in particular with the Reaveys’ brother. Alan Black, the only Kingmills survivor, also mentioned that the Reaveys’ mother visited his family soon after Kingmills to sympathise with them and to bring Christmas presents for his children.
    You would also need to be incredibly gullible to believe that Barry McElduff did not intend to mock the Kingmills victims and rub salt in the wounds of their families. The impending anniversary was widely covered in the northern press and blogesphere, so Mr McElduff would have been well aware of what he was doing. He probably believed that only Republicans would read his outburst, as apparently Kingmills “jokes” have long been current in that demographic. I also think it is wrong to say that the latter outburst only offended unionists, it appears to have offended all those, of whatever background, with any shred of common decency or morality

    1. Do tell Ginger; I ask for a clarification on something I read, not a homily on moral issues. And wee jimmie? Don’t ever come at me with something from the Irish Times. If I want slanted, untrue nonsense that reeks of ass kissing to the unionists, I can just as easily get it from the telegraph. The only ignorant one here is you.

      1. And just what, precisely, is slanted, untrue and nonsensical about Susan McKay’s account?

        “The late Richard Hughes, the only Catholic on the bus that night, never forgot that when the gunmen demanded that the Catholics step forward, the Chapman brothers, Reggie and Walter, on either side of him, each placed a hand on his arm to stop him from doing so. There had been a spate of loyalist murders in the previous days, leaving three of the Reavey family and three of the O’Dowds dead. Alan Black said that the men would have suspected this was another such attack.”

        Where, exactly is the something you read? Have you tried to look for it? If you can’t be bothered, perhaps you could list sources of information you would consider reliable and we could have a look for you.

  3. I still can’t get my head around the fact that the only survivor, Alan Black, claimed he heard a man in a ‘clipped English accent’ order the gunmen to ‘finish them off’. Were the IRA ahead of the game when it came to ‘dirty tricks’? Somehow I doubt it, for most folk running around at that time would’ve been unaware of the concept of ‘dirty tricks’, apart from the British that is; they wrote a guide on it!

    1. “a man with a clipped English accent shouted ‘right’ and the gunmen opened fire. “We were all hit. I think they shot us waist-high to stop anyone running. “But nobody was dead. There was quite a lot of pain. Quite a lot of moaning and screaming.“ But then this same guy said ‘finish them off’.”
      https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/kingsmills-40-years-on-my-mind-goes-into-countdown-the-boys-have-only-five-minutes-to-live-1-7144017
      It’d be hard to judge an accent from four words, apart from the stress Alan Black was under, then and later, and he seems to have only remembered the accent many years afterwards. Did Richard Hughes refer to it when – if – he spoke of the events?
      There were English-born members of the IRA too. Certainly, someone who revealed his accent and then let someone live wasn’t very good at dirty tricks.

      1. “There were English-born members of the IRA too. Certainly, someone who revealed his accent and then let someone live wasn’t very good at dirty tricks.”

        Now that really depends on the objective of the ‘dirty tricks’ operator doesn’t it? Please don’t be childish with your naïveté.
        Kitson and co were out to defeat the IRA from all angles. Fundamentally their overall objective would be for the community the IRA came from to reject them. McGurks bar for example would’ve done serious damage to the IRA within the community. Their denials would’ve been taken with a pinch of salt by most people not paying attention I.e the police ‘believed the IRA were using the bar to make bombs’ and sure it must’ve been the case shouldn’t it? Alas it took 40 years for the British state to admit they knew the IRA didn’t perpetrate that attack.
        The Miami showband. Unionists terrorists/British soldiers(take any claims that they were ‘former soldiers’ with a pinch of salt) were believed to be putting a bomb into the back of the band members van when it detonated prematurely. Their intentions were not entirely clear but you can be certain the plan was to blame the IRA for wiping out a very popular band and the result would be more anger aimed towards the IRA. I am sure the RUC could’ve constructed some sort of story I.e the IRA detonated a roadside bomb thinking it was the security forces for example. If things had have went smoothly for the unionist gang then we could feasibly be calling on the IRA today, to admit their part in the deaths of the Miami showband could we not?
        P.s don’t get me started on Omagh. If anybody thinks the spooks hadn’t a hand in that atrocity then they really must believe in fairies and Santa Claus.

        1. So, the spooks killed the Reaveys and the O’Dowds the day before and then carried out the Kingsmill killings to make it look like revenge. Was there anything that didn’t have the spooks behind it?
          What was the objective of this particular dirty trick, except pure malice and confusion then? Did they deliberately put a load of bullets – but not enough to actually finish him off – into Alan Black to make it look more convincing when he remembered an English accent?
          The “English accent” only seems to have appeared in Black’s account fairly recently. Did Richard Hughes ever mention it?
          According to an anonymous informant the spooks deliberately gave the UVF booby-trapped detonators which would explode prematurely for the Miami Showband attack – or were those supposed to go to someone else? What does that have to do with thus too?
          Why should I want to get you started on Omagh? What do Omagh – or McGurks Bar – have to do with this – except to feed your general conviction that every apparent explanation is false – anyway?

          1. “Why should I want to get you started on Omagh? What do Omagh – or McGurks Bar – have to do with this – except to feed your general conviction that every apparent explanation is false – anyway?”

            Yip, when it comes to war, lots of times nothing was quite what it seemed. Please pay attention………..hence the ‘official secrecy’.

            Either you are quite dim or deliberately acting daft? If you don’t know by now that various units of the British army had a hand it plenty of ‘terror attacks’ over the years then I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t know your own name.
            Again, for your hard of hearing, I will repeat, Kitson and his cronies set about a strategy to defeat the IRA. Part of that strategy was to turn the community against the IRA and fomenting sectarianism is an old ace card the Brits regularly call upon. If you don’t know that then I would suggest you go and do a bit of research, and I don’t mean the F.R.U version!
            Btw, you are probably of the opinion that the Reavey clan, or whatever was left of them, were involved in kingsmill too? After all, that was the Chinese whisper fed to the public by the spooks/special branch for a long time too.

            1. Why would the British army want to foment sectarianism when they didn’t need to because it was already rampant?

              1. Nonsense. You’d need to ask them then? Lest we forget it was only 3/4 years ago MRF/FRU operatives admitted they drove around Belfast, undercover and deliberately shot at ‘both sides’ of those of whom were manning barricades in their respective districts during the seventies in order to get the two tribes to blame one another and thus carry out retaliation. Btw, when they undertook their special missions they were told that if they happened to apprehended or their cover was blown in any way the authorities would have to deny they were members of the security forces to protect thei integrity of the state. Ginger Baker and Brian Nelson were ‘former members’ of the British army, cough cough!

  4. i agree with Seamas that mcElroy’s vid was inane in the extreme.
    He certainly didn’t remember one salient lesson from the Troubles “Whatever you do, say nahim!”

    After a witch-hunt that avoided mention of the preceding Loyalist killings of innocent families, his resignation speech was dignified in the extreme.
    The DUP/TUV et al as well as the great and the good are now baying for Mairtin O’Muilleor’s resignation (see belfast telegraph poll) because he dared forward on the offending video.
    And if he resigns – who’s next to go?
    Everybody who received the vid from him?
    Everybody who watched it on FB?
    Anybody that even thought mcElroy might genuinely have made a mistake?
    Where and when do we call a stop to pandering (awful verb) to Unionist/Loyalist irrational demands to remove all overt/vocal catholic/Nationalist/republican presence from NI?

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