Shankill bomber's dad in U-turn over tribute at IRA plot
In a dramatic U-turn, the father of Shankill Road bomber Thomas Begley has said he will now be attending today's commemoration to his son.
Begley died and nine others, all Protestants, were killed when the bomb he was carrying exploded prematurely at Frizzell's fish shop on October 23, 1993.
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Earlier this week, the families of those who died came together to mark the 25th anniversary of the bomb.
Anger has erupted over this afternoon's planned tribute at the republican plot in Milltown Cemetery, west Belfast, where Begley was buried with full IRA honours.
His father Billy told the Belfast Telegraph on Thursday that the family would not be attending.
"We have nothing to do with this event and prefer to remember our son in our own private way," he said.
Mr Begley said his family pray for "all the innocent people who were killed", adding: "We are very sorry for what happened - it was all wrong."
But in a reversal yesterday he said the family would now be attending the memorial.
In a statement issued to the Press Association, Mr Begley stated: "I and members of my family will be in attendance at the dignified and respectful commemoration in memory of our son Thomas being held at the republican plot in Belfast."
Sinn Fein has confirmed that some of its members will also be represented.
Speaking in Dublin yesterday, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald defended party members attending the event.
"I have consistently said that for us to respect each other and for us to begin the process of healing and reconciliation, we have to allow for remembrance by everybody, by all sides.
"That includes, in this case, the loved ones and families of those who were killed in the bomb and that includes Thomas Begley," Ms McDonald said.
"I know that creates a difficulty for people, it creates controversy, but the truth is for us really to begin the process of putting the conflict to rest and creating a healing environment we have to allow for remembrance on all sides and I'm saying that very conscious of the fact that creates a sensitivity and difficulty for many people," she added.
Relatives of those killed in the Shankill bomb have slammed plans to commemorate Begley's death.
It will take place just four days after hundreds of people from both sides of the community in Northern Ireland marked 25 years since the atrocity.
Charlie Butler, who lost three members of his family in the attack, said it was "gut wrenching" for the families of the victims to see a commemoration was planned for Begley.
Speaking on the BBC's Stephen Nolan Show, he said: "To see people who are going to commemorate someone who murdered children and women, unborn babies and pensioners, I think any society needs to look at itself and know it is not right.
He added: "This was someone who wasn't a victim, this was a perpetrator. To glorify perpetrators, it is totally unbelievable in this country. It wouldn't happen in any other country in the world. Shocking."
DUP councillor John Scott, who lost his niece Wilma McKee in the blast, said he was "sickened" that Sinn Fein party members will be attending the event.
"Sinn Fein always talks about equality and that we all come from the one island. This sends a message to say 'to hell with the victims, we are doing what we want to do'.
"It doesn't matter if it was Protestants or Catholics that were killed, Sinn Fein don't seem to worry."