Belfast Telegraph

IRA actions at Shankill Road can't be defended, says McGuinness

'Sincere regret' voiced as victims are remembered

By CHRIS KILPATRICK

Martin McGuinness has said the reaction of relatives of the Shankill fish shop victims to bomber Sean Kelly's apology was "perfectly understandable".

Mr McGuinness said his thoughts and sympathies were with the families and wider community in the Shankill as they "come together to mark that terrible event in our past".

Speaking on the 20th anniversary of the bomb, he said: "It was an awful event which happened against a context of intense conflict.

"The legacy of the Shankill bomb will stay with the bereaved families and our entire community for many years.

"It's a legacy all republicans will share with sincere regret and sorrow.

"The result of that IRA action 20 years ago cannot be defended."

A memorial service yesterday was told the bombing must serve as a reminder of why Northern Ireland can never return to the dark days of the Troubles.

Several hundred people attended a poignant service to mark the 20th anniversary of the IRA bomb attack on Frizzell's fish shop which left nine innocent people dead, including two children, and almost 60 injured.

Shop shutters were pulled down as a mark of respect and the Shankill Road closed at the scene of the 1993 atrocity for the duration of yesterday's service.

Children from the schools attended by Michelle Baird (7) and Leanne Murray (13), who were killed, laid wreaths at the time the bomb detonated.

They were placed at the site of the massacre and below a gas lamp which has been kept lit for the past two decades.

Relatives of those killed were present for the memorial service at West Kirk Presbyterian Church, including Lauren Baird, who was just months old when she lost her parents and sister.

Alan McBride was accompanied by his daughter Zoe. She was just two when her mother Sharon and grandfather John Frizzell, who owned the shop, were killed.

Members of the emergency services were also present, as were local political representatives.

Minister David Clawson said the Shankill bombing remained raw for many 20 years on.

Rev Clawson said: "On this day we want to give thanks to God that the violence of the past is not a part of everyday life as it once was; give thanks that a generation growing up does not grow up in the Northern Ireland that many of us did.

"This has come at great cost to many and we know that on a day like today."

He said grieving victims felt like the tragedy had happened 20 days ago, instead of 20 years.

"Many people bear physical scars received that day. Many who did not receive physical injury on that day carry the psychological and emotional scars that such an event is bound to leave," he said.

The bomb tore through Frizzell's on a Saturday afternoon when the area was busy with shoppers.

One of the two IRA bombers, Thomas Begley, also died in the blast.

Begley and his accomplice Sean Kelly had walked into the packed shop dressed as delivery men in white coats. The bomb, which was on an 11-second fuse, detonated prematurely.

At the time of the massacre the IRA said the targets were UDA leaders it wrongly believed were meeting above the fish shop.

In revenge for the attack, the UDA carried out a series of attacks, killing eight people at a bar in Greysteel near Londonderry shortly afterwards.

Deputy First Minister Mr McGuinness yesterday tweeted: "The sorrow, grief and loss inflicted on all those who lost loved ones in the IRA's Shankill bomb must be acknowledged with humility and regret."

DUP MP the Rev William McCrea raised the anniversary of the Shankill bombing at Westminster.

The South Antrim MP said "no one should equate victims with murderers".

Prime Minister David Cameron said no one should glorify terrorism and urged people in Northern Ireland to "come together for a shared future".

Yesterday's service followed a walk of remembrance in the Shankill on Tuesday evening which included vigils at the sites of five lethal bombings which claimed the lives of 25 people.

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