Belfast Telegraph

We never wanted a plaque for our son, say the parents of Shankill bomber Thomas Begley

By Adrian Rutherford

Parents of Shankill bomber Thomas Begley have said they did not want a controversial plaque commemorating their killer son.

Anger has erupted over the tribute, which will be unveiled three days before the 20th anniversary of the massacre.

Begley died and nine others, all Protestants, were killed when the bomb he was carrying exploded prematurely at Frizzell's fish shop on the Shankill Road on October 23, 1993.

A leaflet in circulation says that "friends, family and comrades" will host Begley's commemoration event. It features an image of gunmen firing into the air.

Begley's elderly father, Billy, said the plaque had been organised by former "comrades" of his son – but that the family would have preferred to have a private memorial.

"If it had been us, we'd have just gone to the chapel and then up to the cemetery and that would have been it," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

The intended target of the bomb was a flat above where loyalist paramilitaries were expected to gather, but the meeting was rescheduled.

A second man, Sean Kelly, who was with Begley at the time, was pulled from the rubble. He was later jailed for life, but released early as part of the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Friends and former republican associates of Begley have defended the decision to go ahead with the commemoration on October 20. However, Mr Begley said the plaque had not been requested by his family.

Asked if they would have erected the plaque, he replied: "No, we'd have just gone to the chapel and had a Mass said for him, said a few prayers and brought a few flowers to the grave. That would have been our way of remembering him.

"She [Sadie, Begley's mother] would prefer it didn't go up. She doesn't want anything, she just wants a simple commemoration of his death.

"It makes no difference to me whether it goes up or not. I didn't care. It was up to his comrades. They decided to do something for him on his 20th anniversary.

"It is a simple unveiling of a plaque. When it's over, it's over."

Mr Begley also disassociated himself from the poster advertising the commemoration.

"We had nothing to do with the poster. We didn't know what was on the poster," he added.

Speaking at the family home in north Belfast, Mr Begley said there was no intention to cause offence.

"It's only a commemorative plaque – we're not glorifying the bomb," he added.

"There is no way we're glorifying it. We feel sorry for the people who were killed. There's no bands or anything."

Mr Begley said he appreciated the hurt caused, adding: "I do, but they can do it on their side. Look at [UVF killer] Brian Robinson.

"It's an ordinary commemoration with the plaque being unveiled. There's no-one saying 'Great job Thomas, you did well' or anything like that.

"It's commemorating that he's 20 years dead and he was a member of the IRA."

Mr Begley said he took no pride from his son's actions and would have stopped him if he knew of his plans.

"If I'd known that day, I'd have chained him to the bed," he added.

"He was a good lad, he just got involved and that was it."

PROFILE

Thomas Begley (22) died when the IRA bomb he was planting on the Shankill Road exploded prematurely in October 1993, killing nine people and injuring more than 50. Begley was also linked to the killing of Royal Irish Regiment soldier Stephen Waller in December 1992 at his home in Belfast. Begley was buried with full IRA honours in the republican plot in Milltown Cemetery. His coffin was carried by Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

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