It's taken almost twenty one years but at last a terrible wrong has been corrected for Whitecross man Eugene Reavey!

in 1999 the then MP Ian Paisley using parliamentary privilege in the House of Commons claimed that Eugene Reavey was involved in the Kingsmills massacre. The accusation was completely without foundation but despite being asked repeatedly to retract Mr Paisley refused. Last week former Camlough man, MP Conor McGinn put the record straight.

Eugene Reavey in Ballymoyer Graveyard where his brothers are laid to rest.
Eugene Reavey in Ballymoyer Graveyard where his brothers are laid to rest.

Record Corrected

Speaking during a call for a public inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane by MP Colum Eastwood at the House of Commons 11 November, the MP for St Helen's North spoke of his recollections of the period. Mr McGinn said "January will be the 45th anniversary of a period of days in 1976 that saw some of the worst incidents of the troubles take place in the part of the world that I come from. On 3 January 1976, a bomb was left outside my grandmother’s pub, the Lough Inn in Camlough. A great deal of damage was caused to the village and my Aunt Ann, who was 12 years old at the time and saw the bombers, was injured. It is widely believed that members of what had become known as the Glenanne gang were involved.

Conor McGinn MP
Conor McGinn MP

"The next evening, on 4 January, elements of the same gang, which included members of the security forces, murdered three members of the Reavey family a few miles away in Whitecross and three members of the O’Dowd family—they, like my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle, were members of the Social Democratic and Labour party—in Ballydougan. They were targeted and killed in their home simply because they were Catholics. No one has ever been brought to justice. The following day, 5 January, 10 Protestant workmen from Bessbrook were taken off a minibus and murdered at Kingsmill. Like those the night before, their religion was the only basis on which their lives were so cruelly taken. All those dead left behind loved ones.

"Eugene Reavey lost his three brothers. The unimaginable impact that must have had on him and his family was exacerbated when, just over 20 years ago, it was said in this House that he had some involvement in Kingsmill. Whatever the motivation behind that allegation, it caused incredible pain and It was and is completely and utterly ​false. The police, including the then chief constable, and the Historical Enquiries Team’s investigation are very clear that Eugene Reavey had no involvement whatsoever in Kingsmill. It is right that the record is corrected here today."

no wrongdoing whatsoever

In reply the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office Robin Walker acknowledged Mr Reavey's total innocence. Mr Walker said "Members have referred to a number of tragic cases affecting far too many families, including the case of the Reavey brothers in 1976. I thank the hon. Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn) for the important intervention he has made on that matter, and I note that ​the Police Service of Northern Ireland Historical Enquiries Team found no wrongdoing whatsoever by Eugene Reavey in the incident that he raised."

Scurrilous accusation

Colum Eastwood MP

Foyle MP Colum Eastwood added  "I am also very grateful to the hon. Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn) for righting a wrong today. A former Member for North Antrim made a scurrilous accusation in this place about Eugene Reavey. Eugene Reavey is one of the most decent, upstanding people I know, and what was said about him was absolutely wrong and totally hurtful. Why anybody would think that piling more pain on to a family—one of many such families—would have some sort of value, I just do not understand."

Doing the right thing

Welcoming the effort to put the record straight, Newry and Armagh MLA, Justin McNulty  said “... I applaud SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MP and local South Armagh man Conor McGinn MP for working together and for standing up and doing the right thing by Eugene Reavey and his family.

Justin McNulty MLA
Justin McNulty MLA

“I have known Eugene Reavey and his family for most of my life and no finer upstanding people will you find anywhere. The pain caused by Mr. Paisley’s statement all those years ago has been immense and the statements and work of Mr. Eastwood and Mr. McGinn have gone a long way to rectify that hurt. It was also noted by NIO Minister Robin Walker ‘that the PSNI's Historical Enquiries Team found no wrong-doing whatsoever by Eugene Reavey.’”

Concluding Mr McNulty added “The two MPs also pressed the British Government for Public Inquiry into the Pat Finucane Murder and I hope that long overdue progress can now be made as a consequence of their strong and powerful words. The Secretary of State Brandon Lewis is now due to make a decision before the end of this month.”

Eugene Reavey and Stephen Travers formed the The Truth and Reconciliation Platform (TaRP) in 2016 to provide a platform for victims of the troubles to speak about their personal experiences and they plan to base a peace and reconcilliation centre in Newry in the near future.

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