Belfast Telegraph

Shankill bomb relatives outraged by US sitcom's 'sick joke' about atrocity

By Claire Williamson

Relatives of people murdered in the Shankill bomb have spoken of their "disgust" after a joke apparently referencing the IRA atrocity was made in an American sitcom.

US comedy Black-ish made the link in an episode where two parents are discussing their son's political identity.

It faced a backlash after Channel 4's On Demand service All 4 posted a clip of the programme on its Facebook page.

Michelle Williamson, whose parents were killed in the bombing, said: "I feel totally sick to the stomach and absolutely disgusted."

And Gina Murray, whose 13-year-old daughter Leanne was among the dead, said she had been left "very upset".

The bombing was one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles.

Nine Protestant civilians, including two children aged seven and 13, were killed in the attack at Frizzell's fish shop on October 23, 1993.

The IRA claimed their intention was to assassinate the UDA leadership, due to be meeting in a room above the fish shop.

Instead, the bomb exploded prematurely, killing 10 people in the shop and wounding 50 more.

Bomber Thomas Begley was the tenth person to be killed in the blast. His partner in the two-man IRA team was Sean Kelly, who was badly injured and later jailed for his part in the attack.

The programme at the centre of the row aired in the US in 2015 but was shown on E4 in the UK only last week.

In the clip parents Dre and Bow are discussing that they "have a problem" because they believe their son has become a member of the American Republican party.

They discuss the definition of it before the mum misunderstands and asks, "A member of the Irish Republican Army?" to which the dad responds "What the hell!"

The mum adds: "Okay, Okay, If you got to take down a couple of fish and chips shops to be free of British Rule, Dre you gotta do what you gotta do."

The clip was posted on the All 4 Facebook page with the heading 'When politics splits your family'.

There was a barrage of comments under the post which was later taken down. Channel 4 apologised "if there was any offence caused" and said the clip posted was "out of context".

A spokesman said: "The clip was taken from the long-running American sitcom Black-ish and was posted on social media, out of the context of the episode, in error and has since been removed.

"We apologise if any offence has been caused by this clip."

But relatives of the Shankill bomb victims have been left furious.

Michelle Williamson said she will never do an interview for Channel 4 again. She said: "I feel totally sick to the stomach and absolutely disgusted.

"This time of year is always hard, just before Christmas - I can't put into words how they could even air that.

"I want to take this further. I think all victims of the Shankill bomb should get an apology for this and the writers have to send an apology as well.

"I felt as though I was slapped in the face this morning and it's an attempt to get viewing figures on the backs of our loved ones, with no consideration for the nine innocent victims that lost their lives that day.

"I hope the writers of this 'sick-com' never have a policeman come to their door and tell them their mother and father have just been murdered in a terrorist bomb.

"If Mrs Brown or Give My Head Peace or The Blame Game made a joke about 9/11 in bad taste - do you not think we'd have to answer for that? They should hang their heads in shame.

"They are giving the IRA credibility again.

"It's not just hurting me, it gives them credence.

"I have done many interviews with Channel 4 over the years but I for one will never do another interview for Channel 4 ever again."

Gina Murray told the Belfast Telegraph she couldn't watch the clip, but was left "very upset" when she learned its content.

"I couldn't watch it or listen to it all but I know the gist of it. I was disgusted," she said.

"It just seems to be one thing after another. I didn't think it was funny and neither did my son and neither did any of my family - they were disgusted.

"It's not at all funny, not from our point of view and not for a lot of people in Northern Ireland - it's not funny at all."

Belfast councillor Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston made an official complaint to Channel 4 and called for it to escalate the complaint to the show's producers.

"There is no comedy to be found in the loss of life, let alone one of the most notorious incidents of the Troubles in Northern Ireland," she said.

"This isn't a case of a sensitive audience or a loss in a sense of humour, this is quite simply moral bankruptcy. There is dark humour and then there is downright ignorance. This show crossed the line."

She added: "It's completely irresponsible. Removing the post won't make it go away. It's irreparable hurt and damage to families suffering for a considerable long period of time."

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