A family who lost three members in the Shankill bomb yesterday repeated calls for the organisers of the rally to commemorate IRA bomber Thomas Begley to “just think about the victims”.
Jeanette Baird, whose sister-in-law Evelyn Baird, 27, her common law husband Michael Morrison, 27, and their seven-year-old daughter Michelle were murdered in the bomb, said she “would like those involved in the commemoration to look at their children and grandchildren and think how victims feel seeing the man who killed them commemorated”.
Mrs Baird, 57 – who is married to Evelyn’s brother Robert – said that, like others affected by the atrocity, the events of October 23, 1993, are ingrained in her memory. She spoke to the News Letter on behalf of her father-in-law Bobby Baird.
“We are absolutely devastated about this commemoration for someone who took the lives of pensioners and children – and use an excuse that it wasn’t meant to be them. Please...,” she said.
“That is unreal and an insult. They knew when they went into the fish shop that they weren’t going to take anybody only shoppers that day.
“They said the UDA council was upstairs, but do the people who do their shopping know that? I don’t think so.
“Then they say it wasn’t meant to be the shoppers.
“I want those involved in the commemoration to look at your own children, your nieces and nephews and think how they would feel if it was them and someone was out commemorating the man who killed them.
“What they are doing is cruel.
“The Begley family need to question who sent their son out that day at 23 years of age to do that and who organised it. They need to be held responsible for his death.”
Mrs Baird said that on the day of the bomb they spent hours looking for the three family members and checked all hospitals “where so many were hurt and injured”, before finding them at 10pm in Foster Green morgue.
“The bit that sticks out in our minds was when my husband, his brother Joseph and their uncle got to Foster Green they heard a policewoman saying she couldn’t understand why ‘this child was lying here dead and her parents are not looking for her’,” she said.
“But her parents – Evelyn and Michael – were lying beside her dead. The police only realised that when my husband got there. That was why no one came looking for her.
“All I can say is that anyone who wants to go to Thomas Begley’s commemoration service, look at your own children, a seven-year-old like Michelle or a 13-year-old [like Leanne Murray] and picture them lying in a morgue.
“Michelle was lying there dead and no one had come to pick her up because her parents were lying beside her.
“My husband’s uncle Jim identified the bodies because it was too much for the others.”
Their sealed coffins were returned to Evelyn’s parents home.
She added that whilst 20 years “might seem like a long time for some people, but for family it is like just yesterday”.
“I remember every minute of the day,” she said.
“The sun was splitting the trees that day. I was at home when it came on the news. My mother-in-law rang to say she couldn’t understand where her daughter Evelyn was because her 12-week-old baby Lauren needed her bottle and it wasn’t like her to be late.
“Evelyn and her partner Michael and seven-year-old daughter Michelle had gone down the Shankill to get a wreath for Michael’s fathers grave. Their other son Darren, who was eight, was also with his granny.
“We never knew if they got the wreath or not as they went into the fish shop for a message when the bomb went off.
“When you are watching the children growing up and different special events it is so hard,” she said.
“You don’t get over it, you learn to cope a bit better and to talk without crying.
“Lauren is now a very strong little girl. She is 20 now and a young woman but she is such a credit to her parents.
“There is no holding her back which is a good reflection on my mother-in-law and father-in-law who raised her.”
She said another emotional time for the family was the birth of Darren’s first child three weeks ago.
“He felt it without his mother again then,” she said.
“But then the emotion was made worse when we heard about this commemoration. It knocked us all back.”