Alan McBride: TV encounter with Gerry Adams wasn’t easy
A man who lost his wife and father-in-law in the IRA Shankill bomb says he is “nervous and apprehensive” ahead of Sunday’s television broadcast of a meeting with Gerry Adams.
Alan McBride agreed to be filmed in conversation with the Sinn Fein president as part of a Channel 4 documentary The Bible: A History.
“It’s not easy to do these things,” Mr McBride told this newspaper.
“You try to do them for the right reasons, but sometimes you can end up hurting the people you love the most, my family.”
Mr McBride’s wife Sharon and father-in-law Desmond Frizzell were killed in the blast, and there was huge controversy at the time when Gerry Adams carried the coffin of the IRA bomber Thomas Begley.
Begley died when the device he carried into a fishmongers shop on the Shankill Road exploded prematurely. Nine others were killed.
Days before being filmed Mr Adams and Mr McBride spoke privately, a meeting facilitated by former Methodist president Harold Good.
On the filmed encounter, Mr McBride said: “I think it was a good meeting. It wasn’t me cosying up to Gerry Adams.”
Mr McBride said he is worried about the reaction of his family to the television broadcast.
“Sometimes I forget that they haven’t been on the same journey that I have been on,” he said.
“They are at a different stage, and I understand that.
“After I did it, I thought about why I did it, and was I a bit naive.
“I suppose that’s for other people to decide. I’m not having second thoughts about it.”
Mr McBride works for the victims group WAVE and is a member of the recently appointed Victims Forum.
He said when news broke of his meeting with Gerry Adams he was approached in a shopping centre by a woman from the Shankill.
She told him, “that the meeting gave her and the people where she lives hope that this country can change”.
Mr McBride said whilst he found that encouraging, he remains concerned “about the hurt it causes to the people I know and love” — a reference to his family, who 16 years ago lost so much in that IRA bomb.
One man’s amazing journey
When Alan McBride describes his meeting with Gerry Adams as “not easy” he is understating just how difficult it really was.
You have to remember that Adams carried the coffin of Thomas Begley, the IRA man who carried the bomb into Frizzell’s fishmongers shop on that Saturday afternoon in October 1993.
The UDA met regularly in an upstairs room of an adjoining building. The IRA said they were the targets of the bomb, but there was no meeting that day.
Some time later a police officer described the horror of digging in the rubble of that collapsed building.
“I saw a young girl’s foot, and I knew it was a young girl’s foot because her shoe size was about three or four,” he told me. “I wanted to stop digging then.”
Alan McBride’s father-in-law owned the fishmongers shop. He was among the dead in the rubble, as was Alan’s wife Sharon.
And that is what makes his meeting with Gerry Adams not easy, but so very difficult.
I was on the Shankill Road shortly after the explosion. My job that day was to report on the statements of the IRA and the UDA and then on the week of killing that followed.
It has only been much more recently that I got to know Alan McBride. His mission after the all the hurt he has experienced is peace-building.
I have heard him talk about and explain his journey. And when he speaks you could hear a pin drop.
Meeting Gerry Adams was not an overnight decision.
He hounded the Sinn Fein president in the immediate aftermath of the bombing — and years later made his peace with the republican leader in a letter written after David Ervine’s funeral.
Alan McBride’s first meeting with Gerry Adams came 16 long years after the bomb. He was adamant that he would talk to Adams privately before Channel 4 filmed the two.
And on Sunday we will see the next steps in one man’s amazing journey.