Belfast Telegraph

Poignant visit to scene of Shankill bomb atrocity by Miami massacre survivor

By David Young

Two men whose lives were devastated by the Troubles will this week make a poignant journey to the scene of one of Belfast's worst atrocities.

Alan McBride, whose wife and father-in-law were killed in the Shankill bombing, and Stephen Travers, who was badly injured in the Miami Showband attack in which three of his colleagues were killed, will speak at an event organised as part of the Four Quarters Festival.

Before that the two will visit the scene of the IRA's Shankill fish shop bombing, in which Mr McBride's wife Sharon was one of nine people murdered. One of the bombers, Thomas Begley, also died.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Travers said: "The core of our message is that no side - and I don't even feel comfortable about using that word side - has a monopoly on suffering and loss.

"I feel that, too often, atrocities that happened in the past are being held up separately to bash one side or the other.

"People with vested interests are using one story, or the story of one atrocity, to beat the other side with - as opposed to holding up atrocities that happened to both communities and saying: 'Here is clear evidence that both sides suffered'.

Mr Travers was a guitarist with the Miami Showband when the musicians were ambushed by the UVF near Newry in July 1975.

He was shot and badly wounded in the attack in which three of his bandmates were murdered. Two of the attackers - both members of the UDR - also died when a bomb they were carrying exploded.

In 2016 Mr Travers established the Truth and Reconciliation Platform (TARP) to give people from all sides the opportunity to tell their stories from the Troubles.

"Alan has taken part in TARP events over the past two years since we founded it," he added.

"He was one of our first speakers, and I got to know him and his story to the extent that I almost feel I know Sharon.

"I was keen to learn more about it, having spoken to Alan on many occasions.

"Loss is loss, suffering is suffering: there's no difference. I feel very privileged that Alan is taking me to see where it happened. It will be very sad."

Mr McBride said that the site where Frizzell's fish shop once stood was important to him.

And while he is happy to take Mr Travers to the scene, he is also wary of creating another stop on Northern Ireland's 'Dark Tourism' circuit.

"Frizzell's fish shop is where 10 people died. I think of it as a sacred space," he said.

"The last thing I want to do is to turn the Shankill bomb site into one of those.

"Stephen just wants to pay his respects, that's why I've agreed to take him up there.

"He's a good guy, Stephen. I like him."

But the widower is less happy about affairs in Northern Ireland 20 years after he voted for the Good Friday Agreement.

"I've had to get over a lot of hurt," he added. "I've had to put up with the injustice of knowing that the person who murdered my wife served only seven years in prison.

"The only reason I was prepared to do that was that the society we were trying to create was going to be better than what we had. But while some things are a bit better, politically it hasn't really worked."

The poignant visit of the two men to the site of the Shankill atrocity on Thursday is to be filmed for a documentary currently in preparation by US media giant Netflix, Mr Travers said.

The Miami massacre survivor will be the focus of the programme, which will explore the consequences of violence as a political weapon.

Mr Travers and Mr McBride will speak on Thursday at 7.30pm at St John's Parish Hall on the Falls Road.

Belfast Telegraph

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