The boy who became a mass murderer
In 40 years of Project Children, for Pat Mulcahy the saddest part was the story of one teenager who went on to become one of Northern Ireland’s most infamous terrorists.
Thomas Begley was just 16 when he participated in the programme.
Six years later, on October 23, 1993, and aged just 22, he accidentally blew himself up while bombing Frizzell’s fish shop on Belfast’s Shankill Road.
Begley was with another man, fellow IRA bomber Sean Kelly.
The intended target was a flat above where loyalist paramilitaries were expected to gather, but the meeting was rescheduled.
It was 1pm on a Saturday, a busy time of the week for the shop, when the bomb exploded prematurely, killing nine innocent people plus Begley.
It was one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles.
Pat Mulcahy said Begley’s actions were the saddest part of his experience with the project.
“I do think of that boy, Thomas, of course I do,” he explained.
“But the way I look at it is that he was used by others.
“There are times when I think of him walking in with a bomb and what was going through his mind, and him being so young, with the world right at his feet.
“That, for me, is the saddest part of 40 years’ work.
“But I have to, and do, think of all of the good things too.
“Children who went on the programme all those years ago, and who are now adults, visit me and my wife, Kathleen, in Rockchapel. That, to me, is the testament of the success of the programme — that life-long friendships have been formed.”