Shankill bombing 20 years on: Hundreds attend church service to mark anniversary of 1993 atrocity
Children laid wreaths to remember the young people killed in the no-warning IRA fish shop bombing
Hundreds have gathered for a church service in west Belfast today to mark the 20th anniversary of the Shankill bombing.
Children were among those who laid wreaths to remember two young people killed in the no-warning IRA fish shop bombing in 1993.
A violin played during a solemn ceremony capping a service of memorial on the Shankill Road in Belfast.
IRA bombers intended to target paramilitaries they believed were meeting upstairs in one of the most famously loyalist parts of the city. Instead they ended the lives of nine innocent shoppers and left dozens more injured.
A choir of youngsters from local schools sang during the act of remembrance.
West Kirk Presbyterian minister David Clawson said: "When you see 40 little people up there singing, there is great potential for the future."
The congregation inside the church watched via videolink as the children laid flowers outside during the service.
The minister added: "It was powerful watching it while a violinist played, it was eerie, we felt very much part apart but part of it as well."
One of the bombers, Thomas Begley, also died in the blast in the packed fishmongers after the device exploded prematurely. The attack took place on a busy Saturday afternoon in October 1993.
The republican attack happened just a year before the IRA's ceasefire, which paved the way for peace. But at the time it helped unleash a loyalist backlash in which many more innocent Catholics were killed.
Among the Shankill dead were two children aged seven and 13, Michelle Baird and Leanne Murray. Pupils from their schools laid flowers to coincide with the exact time of the blast 20 years ago.
Mr Clawson said hearing 40 children from 10 local schools singing a modern version of a psalm was a powerful moment.
Harmony Primary principal Alison Hutchinson said: "It is important to remember people who died in those circumstances and the community wanted to do the same."
A total of 57 people were injured, some seriously. Among them was a 79-year-old woman and two two-year-old boys.
The incident began when two IRA members, Begley and Sean Kelly, wearing white coats and posing as delivery drivers, carried the bomb into the shop.
The IRA said later the targets were loyalists from the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) who they thought were meeting in an office above the shop - but the office was empty.
The old building collapsed in a pile of rubble, sending a cloud of dust billowing across the road. People tore at the masonry in search of survivors.
Today a credit union stands on the site. Shops pulled down their shutters as a mark of respect and part of the road was closed.
In revenge for the attack, the UDA carried out a series of retaliatory attacks, killing eight people at a Catholic bar in Greysteel near Londonderry shortly afterwards.
Democratic Unionist MP Willie McCrea raised the anniversary of the Shankill bombing at Westminster.
The South Antrim MP said "no-one should equate victims with murderers".
The Prime Minister said no-one should glorify terrorism and urged people in Northern Ireland to "come together for a shared future".
Mr 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 thousands of people had expressed grief.
"Please may this support not be a one-off. May this not be history."
The minister appreciated moments where this city and beyond has supported the Shankill.
"Don't forget us. Support us and embrace us again. Seek to understand. We ask for a genuine interest in our welfare and for other areas like ours.
"As a minister within the church, can I call even the rest of the church to stand with us in this part of the city.
"As a church community we seek the peace and the welfare of the city, please stand with us.
"As a community we desire to see hope on the horizon."
Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness tweeted: "The sorrow,grief & loss inflicted on all those who lost loved ones in the IRA's Shankill bomb must be acknowledged with humility & regret."
Belfast Telegraph Digital