Victims' anger as Sinn Fein defend using Shankill bomber Kelly as canvasser
Victims have reacted with fury after Sinn Fein defended using Shankill bomber Sean Kelly as a door-to-door election canvasser.
Yesterday, the Belfast Telegraph revealed Kelly has been leafleting and knocking doors for Sinn Fein in the constituency of families whose loved ones were killed in the 1993 bomb attack.
We also reported Sinn Fein's election campaign is being masterminded by press officer Sean Mag Uidhir, a former IRA prisoner.
Yet the party has been unrepentant. Picking up on our story about Kelly's canvassing in a televised election debate on Tuesday night, Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd said: "Sean Kelly is out canvassing to promote politics and the peace process."
He also lashed out at the DUP for associating with former loyalist paramilitaries.
The DUP faced criticism after an endorsement by a group backed by the three main loyalist paramilitary groups.
But families of those killed by Kelly (43) branded it a "joke" and "stomach-churning" that Sinn Fein were defending a bomber's involvement in an election campaign, especially in the wake of the terror attacks in the cities of Manchester and London.
Charlie Butler, who lost three members of his family in the Shankill bomb and who witnessed the aftermath of the attack, said it was "totally disgusting" Sinn Fein had given Kelly their blessing.
The 63-year-old, who lives on the Shankill Road, added: "The memories of that bomb and grief never go away. For somebody who destroyed lives to be campaigning in an election is disgusting.
"Sean Kelly is lucky I haven't seen him out and about."
Mr Butler added it was "outrageous" Kelly has mainly been campaigning for Sinn Fein candidate John Finucane, the lawyer running for a Westminster seat.
Mr Finucane's lawyer father, Pat Finucane, was killed in front of his family by loyalist paramilitaries at home in 1989.
Mr Butler insisted his hatred of Kelly was not based on religion, and said he was happy for people to choose to vote for whoever they wanted.
But he stressed convicted killers should not be campaigning for candidates.
He says he can still recall as if it was "minutes ago" the day he was shopping with his wife on the Shankill before it was shattered by Kelly's bomb.
Mr Butler said it was "total carnage", and when he joined people hauling rubble off victims, he found the body of 13-year-old Leanne Murray, who was killed in the blast.
His niece, Evelyn Baird, her partner, Michael Morrison, both 27, and their seven-year-old daughter, Michelle Baird, were killed in the explosion.
Other residents and unionists in north Belfast have seethed there was a "horrifying" and "sickening" disregard by Sinn Fein for the possibility families affected by the Shankill bomb could be confronted on their doorstep by the only man convicted of the atrocity.
DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson - whose cousins, Sam and Alex Donaldson, were killed in two IRA attacks in 1970 and 1985 -yesterday said it was hypocritical of Sinn Fein to criticise unionists of associating with former loyalist terrorists when they have Kelly as a canvasser. He said: "The fact Sean Kelly has been canvassing near areas where families of those killed in the Shankill bomb is horrifying.
"It's a horrific possibility they could find themselves face-to-face with a killer.
"It's so insensitive.
"And if Sinn Fein are going to defend people like Sean Kelly being involved in their campaign, they should not be attacking the DUP, when we are only trying to get some loyalists to move on from their past."
Kelly was one of the two-man team who carried out the Shankill bombing on October 23, 1993 - one of the most notorious atrocities of the Troubles.
The IRA's intention was to assassinate the UDA leadership, due to be meeting in a room above Frizzell's fish shop on the Shankill Road.
Instead, their bomb exploded prematurely, killing nine people in the shop, including Kelly's terrorist partner, Thomas Begley, and wounding 50 more.
Along with Leanne Murray, Evelyn Baird, Michael Morrison and their daughter, Michelle, the dead included John Frizzell (63), George Williamson (63), Gillian Williamson (49), Sharon McBride (29) and Wilma McKee (38).
Kelly was given nine life sentences for his role in the bombing, but was released early in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
Earlier this week, the DUP came under pressure to clarify its stance on a pre-election endorsement from a body representing loyalist paramilitaries.
Sinn Fein and the Alliance Party demanded that party leader Arlene Foster distance herself from the public support of the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC).
It is an umbrella group linked to the three main loyalist paramilitary groups - the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando.
The LCC had backed the DUP's Nigel Dodds, Gavin Robinson and Emma Little Pengelly in Belfast and the UUP's Tom Elliott in Fermanagh-South Tyrone.
Asked on the BBC Northern Ireland leaders' debate if his party would "unequivocally divorce" from the statement, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson replied: "Yes."
He added: "We don't accept support from anyone who is engaged in paramilitary or criminal activity."