Belfast Telegraph

Shankill bomber Kelly 'dancing on graves of victims'

By Lauren Harte

A woman who lost her parents in the Shankill bombing has rejected an apology from one of the killers.

Michelle Williamson said she was angered at the remarks from Sean Kelly.

She said his presence at a commemoration in Belfast at the weekend in memory of the second bomber, Thomas 'Bootsy' Begley, was like dancing on the graves of the victims.

Speaking at Saturday's event, Kelly described the 1993 atrocity as an "IRA operation which went tragically wrong".

Begley and nine others were killed when the bomb he was carrying exploded in Frizzell's fish shop on October 23, 1993.

Kelly posed alongside Begley as a delivery man when the two planted the bomb on a busy Saturday afternoon. He was badly injured in the explosion and convicted for his role in the atrocity.

Among those who attended the memorial at the republican plot at Milltown Cemetery were senior Sinn Fein figures including Bobby Storey and Belfast councillor Seanna Walsh.

Kelly laid a wreath and addressed a crowd of 200 people gathered around Begley's grave, as did Mr Walsh.

Kelly, who has said sorry for the attack in the past, used the anniversary event to reiterate his apology.

"I am truly sorry for the loss of life and injuries suffered on that day, but there is nothing I can say that can bring any comfort to the families of the victims," he said.

"Let me say, however, that today's event is one of respectful and dignified commemoration of Bootsy. This is no glorification of the events of that awful day, but we stand in solidarity with Bootsy's grieving family and we remember all of those who died during the conflict.

"So Bootsy, may you rest in peace. You were my friend, you were my comrade, and I will never forget you and I will cherish the times we had together."

Moments earlier Kelly had knelt down to plant a kiss on a marble memorial plaque dedicated to Begley and other IRA members before laying a wreath.

Members of the Begley family also took part in the event.

In an apparent U-turn, Billy Begley had confirmed his attendance on Friday afternoon despite previously saying he had nothing to do with the event.

The commemoration for Begley, which came just four days after hundreds of people from both sides of the community in marked 25 years since the Shankill atrocity, had been heavily criticised by victims and politicians.

And yesterday Ms Williamson, whose parents George (63) and Gillian (47) died in the explosion, expressed her anger at the apology issued by Kelly.

"Every single person that tried to glorify Begley on Saturday was dancing on the graves of his innocent victims," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

Gina Murray, whose daughter Leanne was one of two children killed in the no-warning blast, also accused Sinn Fein of "having no feelings" over attending Saturday's memorial, saying the party had "gone too far".

"All they ever do is rhyme on about respect, but they definitely don't show it," she said.

While Mr Walsh insisted the "meaningful" remembrance was respectful, he conceded there was "very little" that he could say to help the families feel better about the perpetrator being remembered.

He said: "I am a former IRA comrade of Sean Kelly and the others involved.

"That's why I feel a responsibility to pay respect."

Paying tribute to the bomber, he said: "Ardoyne lost a much-loved and treasured son and his comrade lost a highly respected volunteer.

"Everyone has the right to remember their dead in a respectful manner.

"There can be no hierarchy of victims. Republicans recognise that."

Belfast Telegraph

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