|The carnage in the aftermath of the IRA bombing on the Shankill Road|
(Photo: Irish News)
Thomas Begley an IRA volunteer from North Belfast planted a bomb in a Shankill Road fish shop that went off prematurely and killed nine innocent people and himself back in October 1993.
The target was Ulster Defence Association (UDA) leader Johnny Adair who had actually left the premises earlier. A UDA meeting was apparently set to take place upstairs but had actually been canceled.
The bomb had only an 11-second fuse making it impossible for the innocent people packed into the fish shop to escape.
The bombing almost brought down the peace process after Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams helped carry Begley’s coffin.
Now family members and Republican supporters intend to commemorate Begley with a plaque at a ceremony later this month.
Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly has defended the event saying Begley was a victim too.
I find that hard to swallow. If you went armed with a bomb into a civilian area you are hardly an innocent victim when that bomb detonates.
Unionists are correct to be deeply upset at the commemoration plans. It is too soon and too raw and while his family is entitled to remember him it is hardly a positive development at such a tense time in Northern Ireland to be erecting a plaque to him.
Unionist Alan McBride's wife Sharon and his father-in-law John Frizell were among the victims.
"Because of the fact that he was a notorious person who took nine lives on the Shankill Road you would very much feel for the families today,” McBride said when news of the commemoration broke.
"The Shankill bomb, because it was a high-profile atrocity, it was always going to receive widespread media attention.
"Obviously families are going to hear about this and some of them are going to be distraught because while Thomas Begley is some mother's son, he's the person who took their loved ones' lives away and they're going to be filled with all sorts of grief and trauma."
"People will remember in the way they want to remember and I suppose all you can ask is that we establish a set of principles around not rubbing people's noses in it," he said.
That is a very noble sentiment and one that makes perfect sense to me.
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly says, "Nobody involved in this is trying to glorify what happened or trying in any way to commemorate the Shankill bombing," he said.
"They are there on the basis that this young man died in that same bombing and they want to remember him."
That is true but the nine others did not carry the bomb to the location, a shop full of civilians.
Kelly said Begley's family wanted to remember him "in a quiet and dignified way," which is fair enough.
But it seems to me a public unveiling of a plaque does glorify and publicize a deed that brought terrible death and destruction.
Better the family remembered him privately and without fanfare. No good can come of resurfacing the Shankill Road bombings.
Here’s Sky News footage from the aftermath of the Shankill bombing: