Belfast Telegraph

Victims 'disgusted' as Shankill bomber Kelly canvasses for Sinn Fein in North Belfast

By Aaron Tinney

Sinn Fein has been slammed for using Shankill bomber Sean Kelly as an election canvasser and activist while Britain reels from terror outrages.

Kelly has been seen visiting homes and handing out leaflets for the party in North Belfast — doors away from the home of a man whose murder he was questioned over last year.

Unionists last night said there was a “horrifying” and “sickening” disregard by Sinn Fein for the possibility that families affected by the Shankill bomb could be confronted on their own doorstep by the only man convicted of the 1993 atrocity that left nine Protestants dead.

They added that the presence of a convicted terrorist canvassing on the streets was “vile” in the wake of the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London.

Gina Murray lost her 13-year-old daughter Leanne in the Shankill blast.

They had been shopping together when Kelly and IRA  colleague Thomas Begley carried the bomb into Frizzell’s fish shop, where it exploded prematurely.

“It’s disgusting they would even allow him to do that,” she said about Kelly canvassing for Sinn Fein.

“I wouldn’t like to come face to face with him on my doorstep.

“I’ve managed to avoid him but the thought of him knocking on people’s doors just isn’t right.

“Sinn Fein shouldn’t have somebody like that canvassing for them, but then again Sinn Fein have no respect for anybody, so it makes no difference.

“If he came to my door it would be terrible, at my age I don’t think I could stand something like that. So what would it do to others?”

The DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, whose cousins Sam and Alex Donaldson were killed in IRA attacks in 1970 and 1985, criticised Sinn Fein over the move, saying it showed a complete lack of sensitivity.

He said: “My party accepts that just because people have a past involvement in paramilitary activity does not mean they cannot have a future involvement in terms of political activity.

“However, I do wonder about the wisdom of using people who have been convicted of multiple murders at this sensitive time for the UK.

“And it is not just a question of showing sensitivity for the victims of the recent Manchester Arena and London Bridge attacks — those attacks will have brought up memories for those who have suffered terrorist trauma in Northern Ireland.

“It is a horrifying possibility a family affected by the Shankill bomber’s acts could come face to face with him at election time.”

Mr Donaldson added he found it “rich” Sinn Fein had made a show of sending its condolences to victims of the Manchester Arena and London Bridge outrages while allowing Kelly to go door to door for the party.

He added: “I think Sinn Fein are quick to point the finger at terrorists in the UK. But on this occasion the finger is very much pointed at them.”

Sinn Fein’s John Finucane, who is campaigning for the North Belfast Westminster seat in the area where Kelly has been seen canvassing, is the son of lawyer Pat Finucane. He witnessed his father being murdered by UFF terrorists in the family home in 1989.

During a debate on Monday between candidates, Mr Finucane was asked if he would give an unqualified condemnation of the terror carried out by the IRA and other groups in Northern Ireland. He replied that he condemned all acts of violence.

Kelly (43) was part of a 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.

Instead, their bomb exploded prematurely killing nine people in the shop, including Begley, and wounding 50 more.

The dead were: John Frizzell (63); George Williamson (63); Gillian Williamson (49); Sharon McBride (29); Michael Morrison (27); Evelyn Baird (27); Michelle Baird (7), Leanne Murray (13) and Wilma McKee (38).

It later emerged the UDA meeting above the shop had been cancelled.

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.

He was jailed again in 2005 for about a month by then Secretary of State Peter Hain amid allegations he was involved in paramilitary activity and rioting.

Sinn Fein insisted he was trying to stop trouble at the time.

Kelly was arrested in February 2013 for questioning in relation to a punishment-style attack  in which an 18-year-old man was shot in both legs, but was not charged.

He was arrested again in August 2015 and quizzed in the wake of the killing of ex-IRA man Kevin McGuigan, before being released without charge. Dad-of-nine McGuigan was shot dead in revenge for his alleged role in the May 2015 killing by criminals of the Provos’ former Belfast commander Jock Davison. As part of their investigation into the McGuigan execution, detectives took all of Kelly’s clothes for forensic testing.

After he was freed without charge, Kelly lost his job as a delivery driver at an Ardoyne supermarket.

Seeing that Kelly had no clothes or cash, sources say local dissident republicans held a whipround for him that raised around £500.

Kelly, who has since been linked to dissident mob the New IRA, was arrested most recently last year as part of the investigation into the murder of father-of-two Conor McKee (31).

He was found shot dead at his home off the Oldpark Road in north Belfast in January last year.

He suffered from a heroin addiction and was on bail for drug offences at the time of his death.

His family still live in the area where Kelly has been seen canvassing.

One resident, who did not wish to be named, last night said: “It’s sick Sean Kelly is openly canvassing for Sinn Fein at a time when terror attacks are hitting the UK.

“It’s even sicker he’s doing it in an area where the family of a man whose murder he was questioned over still live.”

Kelly last year complained his arrest over Mr McKee’s murder showed he was the victim of “political policing”.

He said he had met with Mr McKee’s family to say he had no part in the killing.

During a 2013 commemoration for fellow Shankill bomber Begley, Kelly said he was “truly sorry for the loss of life and the injuries suffered that day and the sufferings the families have endured”.

Neither Sinn Fein nor Mr Finucane returned calls or emails from the Belfast Telegraph offering them the chance to comment on Kelly’s involvement in their election drive.

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