Kingsmill survivor believes Sinn Féin MP’s insult was ‘deliberate’

Alan Black, who saw 10 colleagues killed by the IRA, says Barry McElduff was ‘dancing on their graves’

‘They shot us all at waist level to stop anyone from running away’, recalled Alan Black, sole survivor of Kingsmill massacre. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

‘They shot us all at waist level to stop anyone from running away’, recalled Alan Black, sole survivor of Kingsmill massacre. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The only survivor of the Kingsmill massacre has said a video tweeted by Sinn Féin MP Barry McElduff on the anniversary of the IRA atrocity was akin to “dancing on their [victims’] graves”.

Mr McElduff has been suspended by the party for three months for posting the video on Twitter featuring him with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head. The video was uploaded last week, on the 42nd anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre in which the IRA killed 10 Protestant textile workers in South Armagh.

Mr McElduff has since apologised for the hurt caused by his “ill-judged” actions, saying he “genuinely meant no offence”.

Alan Black, the only survivor of the massacre, said on Sunday “I don’t accept that”.

“He did know, he done it deliberately to cause hurt and he succeeded in spades in the hurt he caused.

“For Barry McElduff to come out and totally disrespect, in my mind, it was depraved what he done and it was dancing on their graves. He was seen to be celebrating their deaths and if he had seen what I had seen that night, that has lived with me ever since, he wouldn’t have done it.”

Mr Black said the disrespect shown by Mr McElduff was “very hard to take” and described him as a “very astute politician” and a “clever man”.

Describing his feelings towards the events of January 5th, 1976, he said he had no bitterness or anger but rather felt sadness and loss.

Gunmen stopped a minibus carrying 11 Protestant workmen, lined them up alongside it and shot them. Mr Black survived, despite having been shot 18 times. A new inquest is being held into the deaths.

Speaking to Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio on Sunday, Mr Black said the noise of the gunfire that day was “something I’ll never ever forget”.

“They shot us all at waist level to stop anyone from running away. It lasted maybe 10 seconds. I was hit multiple times and so was everyone else.

“It was absolutely awful because there was screams of pain; some of them weren’t able to scream and they were moaning, they were groaning.

“My 19-year-old apprentice [Robert Chambers], he fell across my legs. It was absolutely horrific, he was calling for his mammy.”

‘Finish them off’

Mr Black said the gunfire stopped for a short time before he heard one man say “finish them off”.

“The shooting became more measured. Robert was still calling for his mammy and I seen the boots of the gunman and I seen the tips of the rifle and they blew his face away. That’s something that will live with me until the day I die.”

Mr Black said a bullet hit his head, but didn’t penetrate his skull. He said the gunmen “casually walked away” and with one of his hands he began “trying to plug holes with my fingers to stop myself bleeding to death”.

Mr Black said it was impossible to live a normal life upon release from hospital and he felt “so guilty” about being alive. In particular, he said he had lived with the memory of Robert Chambers and his late parents.

“It broke their [Chambers’ parents] hearts. On a summer’s day, you’d see them with a flask and sandwiches and they would go up and sit beside his grave and talk to him. It was heartbreaking. They died of broken hearts because they died very shortly after Robert, within a couple of years.”

Speaking later on RTÉ Radio, Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin said his party accepted Mr McElduff’s account that he had not intended to cause hurt by posting the Kingsmill video.

“We are not in any way trying to minimise the hurt he has caused,’’ he said.

However, the party had talked at length with Mr McElduff and accepted the video was not intentional, despite the huge hurt it had caused, Mr Ó Broin said.

Online behaviour

He said Mr McElduff had said “one of the odd quirks’’ of his social media behaviour to “fool’’ and “goof’’ around.

“I am not necessarily saying that is a good thing in itself either, but that this was part of that, ‘’ he added.

Mr Ó Broin, who represents Dublin Mid West, said Mr McElduff was not a politician with a history of making outrageous or insulting comments, adding he had worked very hard for his constituents.

He said the party had disciplinary procedures when there was a breach of rules. The anger among republicans, including in Mr McElduff’s constituency, was just as strong as it was elsewhere in the country, Mr Ó Broin said.

He added the party officials who sat down with Mr McElduff felt the sanction was appropriate.

“Clearly, there are people who are not going to accept that,’’ he said, and he understood that.

“All I can say is, knowing Barry exceptionally well, I accept the fact he did not go out of his way to cause that hurt,’’ Mr Ó Broin added.