Belfast Telegraph

Apology from Shankill bomber Sean Kelly 'just rubs salt in our wounds'

By Adrian Rutherford

Relatives of the Shankill bomb victims have angrily rejected an apology from the IRA killer who helped carry out the atrocity.

Sean Kelly told a republican commemoration he was "truly sorry" for the loss of life and injuries caused in the 1993 attack – before lauding fellow bomber Thomas Begley as a "good" and "brave" IRA volunteer.

The remarks came ahead of the unveiling of a plaque in memory of Begley, who died when the bomb he was carrying in to Frizzell's fish shop exploded prematurely.

Nine other people, all Protestants, died in the October 1993 massacre.

Kelly, who was pulled from the rubble, received nine life sentences but was released in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

At yesterday's event, Kelly said the bombing "was an IRA operation that went tragically wrong".

He said there was no intention to cause civilian deaths, adding: "I am truly sorry for the loss of life and the injuries that were suffered that day, and for the suffering the families have had to endure.

"I include, of course, in that my sorrow at the death of my friend and comrade and volunteer Thomas Begley."

John Scott, whose 36-year-old niece Wilma McKee was among the victims, said he did not accept Kelly's remorse.

"How can he apologise with one breath and then laud Thomas Begley as a hero in the next?" he told the Belfast Telegraph. "I don't think he means a word of it. All he is doing is rubbing salt in the wounds of victims' families."

The bombing took place on October 23, 1993, a busy Saturday afternoon, in the heart of the Shankill Road. Begley and Kelly posed as fishmongers and carried the bomb in to Frizzell's fish shop.

It is believed their intended target were loyalist paramilitary leaders who were due to meet in a flat above the shop that afternoon. But the meeting had been cancelled and, as Begley entered the store, the device exploded.

In addition to the 10 deaths, 57 people were injured by the bomb.

Kelly said he was "proud and privileged" to have been Begley's friend and comrade.

The plaque, at Flax Street, states that Begley "died on active service" and is "always remembered by his many comrades and friends".

It includes a quote from former IRA leader Seamus Twomey.

Billy Begley, who unveiled the tribute, said the event was not intended to cause offence.

He previously told the Belfast Telegraph his wife was against the plaque and they would have preferred a private ceremony.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, who caused outrage among victims when he carried Begley's coffin in 1993, said people needed to be "very sensitive".

"Thomas Begley has a family, those families arguably are victims," he told the BBC.

"One could argue that Thomas Begley is not a victim because he was engaged in an IRA operation."

QUOTES

"I am truly sorry for the loss of life and the injuries that were suffered that day, and for the suffering the families have had to endure."

Convicted IRA bomber Sean Kelly

"I don't think he means a word of it. All he is doing is rubbing salt in the wounds of victims' families."

John Scott, whose niece died in the Shankill bomb

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