Belfast Telegraph

Shankill bomber Sean Kelly runs away from Sunday Life over IRA commemoration

By Patricia Devlin

This is Shankill fish shop bomber Sean Kelly as he ran away from Sunday Life questions about today’s controversial commemoration for his fellow killer.

The 40-year-old killer of innocent women and children scurried off as our reporter asked him if he planned to attend the memorial event for fellow IRA bomber Thomas Begley who blew himself up in the botched October 1993 attack.

Sunday Life also wanted to ask Kelly if he had a message for the families of his innocent victims and whether he thought Begley and himself were used as ‘cannon fodder’ by the Provo chiefs who sent them out to kill with a bomb which had an 11 second fuse.

But when our reporter approached Kelly outside the north Belfast shopping centre where he works as a delivery driver, the convicted murderer threw his hands in the air before running off when asked about the memorial.

He refused to say a word about the commemoration being organised by leading republican Eddie Copeland.


Ironically, 20 years ago Kelly and Begley had posed as delivery men to enter Frizzell’s packed fish shop where they had planned to hold customers and staff at gunpoint before detonating the bomb.

The explosives had been designed to wipe out loyalist paramilitary leaders, including UFF boss Johnny Adair, who were due to meet in a flat above the store that afternoon.

But the meeting had been cancelled and as 22-year-old Begley pushed his way into the shop, packed with women and children, the device detonated. Kelly lost the sight of one eye in the blast and has limited use of his left arm.

Hundreds of republicans, including friends and family of bomber Begley, are set to gather in Ardoyne for the unveiling of a plaque to mark the 20th anniversary of his death.

It comes just days before the anniversary of the atrocity.

Despite pleas from heartbroken relatives of those massacred in the IRA explosion, the plaque event is set to go ahead.

Kelly was Begley’s right hand man in the reckless and merciless October 23 bombing.

The IRA’s victims included schoolgirls Michelle Baird, 7, and Leanne Murray, 13.

Michelle Williamson, 47, whose parents George and Gillian were also killed on that bloody Saturday afternoon, last week delivered a letter to Begley’s parents to a Sinn Fein office in north Belfast.

In it she pleaded with them to help put a stop to the event.

Another relative, John Scott, whose 36-year-old niece Wilma McKee was also killed, also called for the event to be cancelled.

He said: “These people are sick. How they can they do this?”

As well as the dead, 57 others were maimed after the force of the blast caused the old building to collapse crushing many of the survivors, including Kelly.

Rescuers later pulled him from the rubble and he was rushed to hospital with severe facial injuries. Kelly was eventually arrested and received nine life

sentences for the killings.

At his trial in January 1995, Lord Justice McDermott, said: “This wanton slaughter of so many innocent people must rank as one of the most outrageous atrocities endured by the people of this province in the last quarter of a century.”

Killer Kelly served just seven years before being freed in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

He was returned to prison in 2005 over allegations he was involved in terrorism but was released again just months later.

In February the Ardoyne republican was arrested again — this time over the shooting of a teenager in north Belfast.

He was later released unconditionally.

In a newspaper interview in 2000, Kelly spoke of his regret over killing innocent victims in the IRA bomb.

He added: “I lost my close friend Thomas Begley that day. Like the other people who died in the bomb, he was a mother's son too. I do not want to see any more people dying or getting injured. I not want to see any more young men rotting away in jail for years.”

Sunday's event is being backed by Sinn Fein, whose north Belfast MP Gerry Kelly said: “I think in the end it is an acceptance, in their own quiet way, that loved ones, friends and families want to remember Thomas Begley,” he said.

“He did not create the conflict; he was himself a victim of the conflict.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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