This week people across Northern Ireland have been reflecting and remembering the loss of nine innocent lives in the Shankill bombing.
For families who lost loved ones and those injured in such atrocities the emotional and physical scars are ever present, but for most people across Northern Ireland it is only on significant anniversaries of such atrocities that a focus is placed upon them.
The sense of pain and grief, still present after 20 years, was inescapable as the wider Shankill community gathered for a walk of reflection taking in the sites of five lethal no-warning bombs on the front of the Shankill Road. That quiet dignity was also displayed the following day for the service in West Kirk which marked the anniversary of the Frizzell’s fish shop bombing.
This bravery and dignity of victims reflects that also seen in Castlederg earlier this year, again in the face of provocation. In both cases republicans gathered not for quiet reflection and family grief, but for a communal attempt to justify the actions which saw the lives of bombers lost during activities which were deliberately designed to cause destruction and to take the lives of innocent
Unfortunately we have become accustomed to republican attempts to rewrite the past and place a moral equivalence between murderers and their victims, but that does not make it right or acceptable. It is however, when these attempts are crudely positioned against the grief of innocent victims, as in Castlederg and the Shankill, that such attempts are viewed in the clearest light.
The bomb placed on the Shankill Road on October 23, 1993 was taken into a crowded shop on a busy road. Those who designed and planned the attack knew that a “successful operation” would mean the inevitable killing of innocent men, women and children. Those are not the actions of soldiers fighting a war, unless they stand accused of war crimes.
They are the deliberate actions of terrorists engaged in a sectarian attack.
The current definition of a victim in Northern Ireland plays into the warped narrative. It allows those who planned and perpetrated such actions to hide behind a moral equivalence with their victims.
Victims of the Shankill bombing this week have made it quite clear that they do not object to the family of Thomas Begley remembering him, but attempts to paint equivalence between him and those who he murdered only compound their pain and make it even more difficult to rebuild their lives.
A change in the definition would not just benefit victims from the unionist community but everyone who had violence inflicted upon them and their families by terrorists.
Those people are terrorists because the law makes that definition clear.
It is only right that it should do the same for victims.