10 – Kingsmill, Ireland
So far in this article, our rampage killers have been individuals acting alone against the world, taking their rage out on their small town worlds. There is, however, a whole other section of killers who have given undue infamy to isolated places for political reasons, and there can be few places that have seen that quite as much as the North of Ireland.
The conflict known as the Troubles raged in the North of Ireland for thirty years between 1968 and 1998 and was, to a certain extent, two simultaneous conflicts occurring at the same time: one a guerilla war between Irish Republican paramilitaries and British state forces and another internecine conflict between the Irish Nationalist community and the Ulster Loyalist community. The Troubles were fought out predominantly in the urban centres of Belfast and Derry, but, as befitting a society as rural as Ireland, there was a large rural dimension to the fighting, which often arrived in small towns and villages with devastating effect. As such, certain places have developed a public perception that recalls that of Columbine or Dunblane, in which the horrific events that occurred there have long since overshadowed anything else to do with the town. One such place is Kingsmill, County Armagh.
The Kingsmill Massacre is just one of many shootings, but it was in many ways emblematic of the way that the war had unravelled. A group known as the South Armagh Republican Action Force pulled over a minibus carrying workers from a textile factory and forced the passengers out. The gunmen knew that one of the workers was a Catholic and asked him to identify himself, which his Protestant colleagues urged him not to do, fearing that the attackers were in fact Loyalists who would kill him. Instead, as the one Catholic was lead away, the remaining eleven men were shot. Only one survived. The massacre was not sanctioned by the official structures of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), but many suspected that those who carried it out had links to paramilitaries. The South Armagh Republican Action Force, who were previously unheard of and thought to be a cover name for IRA members, claimed the attack and said it was a retaliation for the killings of six people the day before in another part of Armagh. It was the culmination of years of tit-for-tat killings in the area.
For members of the Protestant community, the Kingsmill Massacre has taken on an emblematic role as the worst atrocity committed against civilians in the conflict, but it is far from alone. In 1993 was the Greysteel Massacre, where 8 Catholics were shot dead by a Loyalist gang at a Halloween Party in the County Derry village of Greysteel, while another 6 were murdered while watching a World Cup soccer match in 1994 in the village of Loughinisland. It is to this day impossible to mention the names of these places without it immediately conjuring up images of the horrific events that took place there during this dark period of Irish history.