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The Shankill bomber, IRA member Thomas Begley, killed 9 and injured 50 people Photo by: Pacem

Sinn Fein defends decision to commemorate IRA bomber who killed nine

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The Shankill bomber, IRA member Thomas Begley, killed 9 and injured 50 people Photo by: Pacem

The decision by a group of north Belfast republicans to hold a commemoration for the Shankill bomber Thomas Begley has caused widespread outrage. But Sinn Fein's decision to defend the move has enraged their political opponents still further.

Unionists have reportedly described the commemoration planned for later this month as 'grotesque' and 'sickening.'

Thomas Begley died when the IRA bomb he was planting in Frizell’s fish shop on the Shankill Road 20 years ago exploded prematurely, killing nine people and injuring more than fifty.

Now some local republicans reportedly plan to hold a commemoration for him in north Belfast on October 20, three days before the twentieth anniversary of the bombing.

Although it is not a Sinn Fein organized event critics are appalled they have moved to defend it in the press.

Earlier this summer Sinn Fein came in for strong criticism for a parade that took place in Castlederg, County Tyrone held in the memory of two IRA men who were likewise killed by their own bomb.

Nigel Dodds, the DUP Member of Parliament for North Belfast, said the decision to hold the  commemoration for Begley was 'grotesque.' Begley made a 'cold-blooded choice' to place a bomb in a crowded fish shop, Dodds said.

'His actions are not to be celebrated but should be a source of shame. There is no place in Northern Ireland for the glorification of killers such as Thomas Begley,' he added.

According to the Irish Times, Ulster Unionist councillor John Scott, whose niece Wilma McKee died in the explosion said that Begley 'wasn’t a hero and he wasn’t a victim.'

'For republicans to commemorate Begley as a hero is sickening and will only bring further trauma for victims and their families. They obviously have no thoughts for Wilma, the eight other people Begley murdered and those he injured,' he added.

Alliance East Belfast MP Naomi Long said: 'Those who are organising this event are failing to respect and show sensitivity for victims and it is clear lessons have not been learnt from the Castlederg parade, which caused great hurt and upset.

Likewise, this event has the potential to cause serious distress and set back community relations.'

But Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly described the bombing was a 'terrible tragedy' adding that the people of Shankill will be holding their own commemorations.

'Likewise the family and friends of Thomas Begley will remember him with dignity and respect. They have no intention of offending anyone,' he said.

'Everyone has a right to remember their loved ones and Thomas Begley’s family and friends are no different. Thomas Begley was not responsible for the conflict here - he lost his life as a result of the conflict he was born into,' Kelly concluded.

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