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Bloody Sunday, election, Irish, Ireland, British, Ulster, Unionist, Sinn Féin, SDLP, Ahern, Blair, Irish America

Paisley under pressure to withdraw Reavey accusation

(by Liam Clarke, Sunday Times)

Ian Paisley could be challenged at Stormont for refusing to withdraw terrorism allegations against an innocent man.

Dominic Bradley, an SDLP member, is to table questions for the first minister in the assembly unless the Democratic Unionist leader responds positively to a letter from Eugene Reavey, whom he once accused of setting up the murder of 10 Protestants. The police say the accusation, made under parliamentary privilege, is entirely wrong.

Last week, Reavey wrote to Paisley asking him to withdraw the comments. He sent copies of the letter to Tony Blair, Bertie Ahern and Martin McGuinness, the deputy first minister, asking them to intervene. A spokesman for Paisley said that the first minister was aware of the issue but would not be commenting.

Reavey's three brothers – John, Brian and Anthony – were gunned down by the Ulster Volunteer Force in their home in 1976. The Reavey family appealed for no retaliation but the next day, the South Armagh Republican Action Force, a cover name for local IRA units which were on ceasefire, stopped a minibus carrying workmen at Kingsmills in Armagh, asked if there were any Catholics on board and machine-Gunned Protestants. Ten were killed.

When Eugene Reavey was travelling with family to collect the bodies of his brothers from the hospital in Newry, they found their way blocked by the aftermath of the Kingsmills massacre. "There were several cars and I got out to signal them to go back; that may be how the rumours started," Reavey said.

Rumours persisted among local loyalists that his three dead brothers were IRA members, possibly in an attempt to justify their murder. But none of the Reaveys are on the IRA's list of dead volunteers and, last year, the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), a PSNI unit reviewing murders during the Troubles, wrote to Eugene Reavey officially clearing their names.

Dave Cox, head of HET, said he had re-examined all the intelligence material from the time. "I am happy to confirm to you that there is no trace of any credible material that would link John, Brian or Anthony to any paramilitary organisation or any criminal enterprise. They were entirely innocent victims of senseless sectarian violence," said Cox.

Cox also apologised for "the appalling harassment you report suffered by your family in the aftermath, at the hands of elements of the security forces".

In 1999, Paisley said: "Eugene Reavey, a well-known republican, 'set up the Kingsmills massacre' and transported a number of men," whom he named, to the scene.

Reavey took legal action, but because Paisley's remarks were made under parliamentary privilege, he lost. "I had to pay Paisley's [legal] costs, which were considerable," he said.

May 20, 2007

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times on May 20, 2007.