Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Sinn Fein backs Shankill bomber tribute

IRA man behind Shankill atrocity was a victim too: Gerry Kelly

The scene of devastation after the Shankill Road bomb
Thomas Begley was blown up by his own bomb on the Shankill Road

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly has compounded the hurt of the families of those murdered in the Shankill Road bomb by defending a commemoration for one of the IRA men behind the devastating blast.

The North Belfast Assembly member added to the anguish of the distraught families after he described IRA bomber Thomas Begley as a victim of the tragedy too.

There was anger yesterday after it was learned that a plaque is to be unveiled in the Ardoyne area later this month at a commemoration ceremony to remember Begley.

A leaflet with an image of gunmen firing in the air stated that friends, family and republican associates would host the event.

The commemoration will be held three days before the 20th anniversary of the Shankill Road bombing in which nine Protestants and Begley himself were killed after his device exploded prematurely.

Despite anger at the plans, Mr Kelly said it would be respectful.

"Thomas Begley was not responsible for the conflict here – he lost his life as a result of the conflict he was born into," Mr Kelly said.

"This was a terrible tragedy when 10 people were killed, one of them IRA volunteer Thomas Begley. The people of the Shankill will be holding their own commemoration and remembering their loved ones."

He added: "Everyone has a right to remember their loved ones and Thomas Begley's family and friends are no different."

Ulster Unionist councillor John Scott, whose niece Wilma McKee was one of the nine innocent victims of the fish shop bombing, said Begley "wasn't a hero and he wasn't a victim".

"For republicans to commemorate Begley as a hero is sickening and will only bring further trauma for victims and their families.

"The families of Begley's victims have suffered enough already without republicans now rubbing their noses in Begley's crimes by unveiling a plaque to the mass murderer. I can understand that a family may want to remember a son, but this isn't the way to do it, given his crimes."

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said there is no place in Northern Ireland for the glorification of killers. "This was a man prepared to walk into a crowded fish shop and place a bomb with an 11-second fuse on the counter.

"His actions are not to be celebrated but should be a source of shame."

FACTFILE

In October 1993, nine Protestants, including two children, were killed when a bomb carried by IRA bomber Thomas Begley exploded prematurely in Frizzell's fish shop on the Shankill Road. Begley (right) was also killed in the explosion. The intended target was a flat above where loyalist paramilitaries were expected to gather. A second IRA man, Sean Kelly, who was with Begley at the time, was pulled from the rubble.

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