Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

Shankill bomber canvassing for Sinn Fein in North Belfast

Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill speak to the media in west Belfast yesterday
Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill speak to the media in west Belfast yesterday
Lord Mayor John Finucane at the launch of the Transform for Change project at Belfast City Hall
Sean Kelly
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

Shankill bomber Sean Kelly will be canvassing for Sinn Fein in North Belfast ahead of December's general election, party president Mary Lou McDonald has said.

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Yesterday Sinn Fein announced that they would not be running candidates in South Belfast, East Belfast and North Down in an effort to see pro-remain candidates returned.

Michelle Williamson, who lost both of her parents in the 1993 bombing, said it was no surprise that Kelly will be on the election trail.

It is understood Kelly will be supporting efforts to see Sinn Fein's John Finucane wrest the North Belfast seat from DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds.

Sinn Fein said it wanted to see the SDLP's Claire Hanna elected in South Belfast, Alliance leader Naomi Long in East Belfast and Lady Sylvia Hermon in North Down.

Mr Finucane will challenge Mr Dodds in North Belfast as the only nationalist candidate after the SDLP stated they will not contest the constituency.

Locals reported that Kelly had been seen erecting election posters and distributing leaflets for Sinn Fein in the area.

Nine people - including two children - were murdered in the bombing at Frizzell's fish shop. A further 57 were injured.

Asked yesterday if Kelly had been canvassing for the party, Ms McDonald said: "Activists across the party and hundreds of them will be into North Belfast canvassing to elect John Finucane, yes."

Ms Williamson's parents, George (63) and Gillian (47), were killed as they were buying fish for their tea in Frizzell's on October 23, 1993.

The IRA's intention was to assassinate the UDA leadership, due to be meeting in a room above the fish shop. Instead, their bomb, which was carried into the shop by Kelly and Thomas Begley, exploded prematurely killing nine people, including Kelly's accomplice.

Kelly was given nine life sentences for his role in the bombing but was released early in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Commenting on Kelly's involvement in the election campaign, Ms Williamson said: "There is no shame or respect for his victims who will have to endure seeing his face all over the media and just shortly after the recent 26th anniversary of the Shankill bomb."

It is not the first time that Kelly has been seen on the election trail for Sinn Fein in recent times after he was pictured canvassing for the party prior to this year's local council elections, while he also took part during the build-up to the 2017 general election.

Describing the December 12 poll as a "once in a generation election", Ms McDonald welcomed the SDLP's decision not to run candidates in the three constituencies.

"We have been aware in Sinn Fein that we need to do everything we can to protect the interests of every citizen that lives here and that means respecting and standing up for the pro-Remain position," she continued.

"You can call this a pact, you can call it what you wish, the reality is that we're asking people to come out and to vote for those pro-Remain candidates.

"We believe that is the right thing to do and at the highest level reflects the interests of people here in the north of Ireland."

Ms McDonald added that Mr Finucane, Ms Hanna, Ms Long and Lady Hermon are the only candidates in their constituencies that have a vision of a positive future.

When asked if she was comfortable asking Sinn Fein supporters in North Down to vote for a unionist candidate, Ms McDonald said it sat "very comfortably" with her to ask people to defy hard Brexiteers.

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