Channel 4 apologises over Shankill bomb joke in ABC sitcom

The aftermath of the Shankill bomb in 1993
The aftermath of the Shankill bomb in 1993

Channel 4 has apologised after it sparked outrage by posting a clip of a US sitcom containing a joke apparently referencing the Shankill bomb.

Nine innocent people were killed when IRA man Thomas Begley carried a bomb into Frizzell’s fish shop on the Shankill Road on the afternoon of October 23, 1993.

He was said to have been targeting a UDA meeting that was supposed to take place upstairs.

His bomb was on an 11-second fuse and killed him along with nine other people. Another 57 people were injured.

The incident is one of the most notorious atrocities of the Troubles.

Now, TV giant Channel 4 has come under fire after a reference in one of its programmes appeared to make light of the terror attack.

Dre and Bow Johnston, characters on the US sitcom Blackish, are discussing their son Junior’s political identity.

Dre declares to Bow that they have a problem, as he believes Junior is a republican. Discussing the definition of a republican, Bow asks Dre: “A member of the Irish Republican Army?”

She continues: “Okay, okay, if you got to take down a couple of fish and chips shops to be free of British rule, Dre you gotta do what you gotta do.”

Channel 4’s video on demand service, All4 posted a link to the episode in question on its Facebook page, leading to a barrage of criticism.

Gary Murray, who lost his 13-year-old sister Leanne in the 1993 bomb, said he was “disgusted and angry ” by the clip.

He told the News Letter: “It is like they are throwing it in our faces. I have just shown it to my mum and it left her in tears. It has just brought it all back again.”

Many people also voiced their anger about the joke on Facebook.

One viewer posted: “This is beyond disgusting. The murder of innocents including children on the Shankill Road is deemed acceptable comedy dialogue?”

Another said: “This is really scraping the barrel...insensitive and just morally wrong. C4 should be ashamed that this was allowed to be aired.”

Belfast Councillor Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston said she was “flabbergasted” by what she described as an “insensitive reference”.

She added: “There is no comedy to be found in the loss of life let alone one of the most notorious incidents of the troubles in Northern Ireland.”

In a statement to the News Letter, Channel 4 said: “The clip was taken from the long-running American sitcom Blackish and was posted on social media, out of the context of the episode, in error and has since been removed.

“We apologise if any offence has been caused by this clip.”