Husband of Shankill bomb victim dismisses bomber's apology

Begley plaque Shankill bomber Sean Kelly (right) embraces Thomas Begley's father Billy at Sunday's ceremony

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A man whose wife was killed in the 1993 Shankill bomb has said he does not believe one of the IRA bombers who apologised about the lives lost.

IRA man Thomas Begley and nine Protestant civilians were killed in the 1993 attack in Belfast.

On Sunday, a memorial ceremony was held for Begley.

The other bomber, Sean Kelly, told the crowd he was sorry for the loss of life. Alan McBride, whose wife died in the blast, said his apology was hollow.

"He (Kelly) went out that day, I have no doubt he was trying to murder UDA men upstairs in that shop, so I'm not suggesting for a minute my wife was the intended target, but she wasn't even considered, her life wasn't even considered that it was worth anything," Mr McBride said.

"He left that bomb on the counter and the timescale for them getting out of that was so small that they had to have known the potential for innocent casualties to be taken that day was huge and that's exactly what happened.

"So for Sean Kelly to come out now and say he's sorry, I don't really believe him."

Charlie Butler, who lost three relatives in the attack - his niece Evelyn Baird, her partner Michael Morrison and their seven-year-old daughter Michelle - said the apology was "20 years too late".

"I don't think any apology will bring back what happened," he said.

He said he respected the right of the Begley family to remember their son, but added: "I think there's better ways of remembering your son than being a child murderer and a murderer of women and pensioners."

Thomas Begley Thomas Begley accidentally blew himself up in the 1993 Shankill bomb

During Sunday's ceremony, Billy Begley, Thomas Begley's father unveiled a plaque stating that the bomber "died on active service" and is "always remembered by his many comrades and friends".

In a brief speech at the ceremony, his father, thanked the crowd and said: "As you well know, this is not a celebration or a glorification of that tragic day that happened. It's also (not to) degrade the innocent people on the Shankill Road."

The crowd was also addressed by Sean Kelly, the IRA man who was with Begley on the day and survived the bomb.

He described it "an IRA operation that went tragically wrong".

"I offer no excuse that will change how any of these innocent people and families will think about myself or Thomas or the IRA as a result of this operation. I am truly sorry for the loss of life and the injuries that were suffered that day and for the suffering the families have endured," Kelly added.

There were two protests against the commemoration, one involving victims families and another one staged by loyalist youths on the Crumlin Road.

'Pain'

The nine other people killed in the IRA attack included two children aged seven and 13.

The attack took place on a busy Saturday afternoon in October in the heart of one of Belfast's best known loyalist areas.

Gary and Gina Murray The brother and mother of 13-year-old Leanne Murray, who was killed in the attack, joined a protest on Sunday

Begley and Kelly posed as fishmongers and carried the bomb into Frizzell's fish shop where shoppers were queuing for food.

In addition to the 10 deaths, a further 57 people were injured by the bomb. The wounded included Kelly, who was pulled from the rubble of the collapsed building.

He received a total of nine life sentences for his role in the attack but was released early in July 2000, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Families of some of the Shankill bomb victims condemned the commemoration when the plans emerged earlier this month.

The Begley family, from Ardoyne in north Belfast, had previously publicly stated their opposition to the Shankill Road bombing and their son's role in the IRA attack.

Last week, the bomber's brother, Sean Begley, told the Belfast News Letter that his family had not been involved in producing the flyer or the plaque tribute, but would be attending the memorial service to mark the 20th anniversary of his death.

Charlie Butler said the apology was "20 years too late".

'Cruel insult'

Michelle Williamson, who lost both her parents in the explosion, wrote a personal letter to Begley's parents, asking them to call off the ceremony.

She told them she had "no problem in acknowledging your loss" but said the unveiling of the plaque to a bomber was "a sick and cruel insult to the memory of our loved ones".

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