A woman whose parents were murdered by the IRA in the Shankill bombing of 1993 said yesterday she will be a “ghost” to follow the footsteps of the man responsible.
Michelle Williamson’s parents were buying fish in the shop targeted by the IRA and were both killed in the bomb blast 20 years ago tomorrow.
IRA men Sean Kelly and Thomas Begley carried the bomb into the fish shop on the Shankill Road, allegedly targeting a UDA meeting above the shop. The device detonated earlier than planned and killed nine civilians – the UDA meeting having not taken place.
Recent weeks have seen intense controversy over plans to hold a high-profile commemoration event for Begley who died in the blast. The republican commemoration took place on Sunday in the Ardoyne area, picketed by loyalist protestors.
Speaking to the News Letter, Michelle Williamson said how deeply hurt she felt by the commemoration.
Last week she handed a letter addressed to Begley’s parents into Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly’s office, asking the Begleys to call for the republican event to be cancelled.
“I knew in my heart I would probably not get a reply and I didn’t,” she said, “For me and the other innocent victims, we were just ignored. I still have that image of Kelly giving an apology on television [on Sunday], that he was truly sorry for lives they took away that day. As for his apology, I don’t believe it.”
She added: “I will always be the ghost of Kelly’s past to remind him of what he did – slaughtered nine innocent people and his best friend. To see this mass murderer address his local community, I knew it was going to be hard to watch – but why did Kelly have to be there? The world has had a glimpse of the shared future in Northern Ireland that Sinn Fein is always talking about,” she said. “This demonstrated very clearly why the Maze prison has to be flattened. If it isn’t we will see republican commemorations like this as a weekly event.”
The anniversary of her mum and dad’s murder is tomorrow. “I just feel disgusted.
“Innocent victims have tried to fight their corner with dignity and this is the treatment they receive.
“I buried my mum and dad when they were 47 and 61 and I was only 27.
“All they said yesterday was that it was a tragic mistake and that it should never have happened.
“They knew there would be innocent victims caught up in it. What did they expect when they carried a bomb into a fish and chip shop? I am just hoping I can cope with the anniversary. Over the last few days I have had to retreat into my own world to remember mum and dad.
“Kelly’s apology seemed so empty – it was like someone had written it for him.
“I got two little plastic zip bags of personal belongings back from the police with my mum and dad’s names on them.
“That is all I have left of my mum and dad,” Ms Williamson said.
She is scathing of how the past is being dealt with.
Three years ago the PSNI Historical Enquiries Team phoned her and asked if she had any questions about her parents’ murders.
“I said I wanted to know which IRA commander sanctioned the attack, who made the bomb, and who drove the getaway car?
“They said they would send a family liaison officer to meet me. That was three or four years ago and I am still waiting.
“A few days later they said on television that they had completed the investigation into the Shankill bomb and that everyone was happy.”
A PSNI spokesman responded saying the HET’s review of the police investigation started in April 2008 and finished in the autumn of 2010.
“At the outset the HET wrote to the families of all of those who died. Final Review Summary reports were delivered in August 2010 and October 2011 to the families which engaged with the HET. The HET is more than happy to re-engage with Michelle if she would wish to make contact,” he said.
Also yesterday Alan McBride, whose wife was also killed in the bomb, said he did not believe the apology from Kelly either.
“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 told the BBC.
“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.”