A man who lost his 13-year-old sister in the Shankill bombing has said he is “sickened” that the Sinn Fein president has defended those attending a commemoration of one of her killers.
Gary Murray, whose sister Leanne died in 1993 when an IRA bomb exploded in Frizzell’s fish shop, said today’s memorial tribute to Thomas Begley is nothing more than the “glorification of a child killer”.
Begley died along with nine innocent Protestants in the botched Shankill Road attack. A second bomber, Sean Kelly, survived the blast and was prosecuted for his role in the mass murder.
Mr Murray was commenting after Mary Lou McDonald defended Sinn Fein members who will be at Belfast’s Milltown cemetery for the event to mark the 25th anniversary of Begley’s death.
The gathering at the cemetery is due to happen today at about 1pm, according to a poster circulated for the event.
Speaking in Dublin yesterday, the Sinn Fein leader said events of remembrance are “difficult and sensitive,” and added: “I have consistently said that for us to respect each other and for us to begin the process of healing and reconciliation, we have to allow for remembrance by everybody, by all sides.
“That includes, in this case, the loved ones and families of those who were killed in the bomb and that includes Thomas Begley.”
Ms McDonald went on to say: “I know that creates a difficulty for people, it creates controversy, but the truth is for us really to begin the process of putting the conflict to rest and creating a healing environment, we have to allow for remembrance on all sides.”
Mr Murray said the Sinn Fein president’s refusal to distance herself from the Milltown event had ended victims’ hopes of a new era of mutual respect.
“If any victims thought that there would be some fresh thinking in Sinn Fein under her leadership then it’s been dashed now, 100%,” he said.
“What kind of message is she sending out? It’s all a bit sickening. How can you glorify a terrorist... how can you actually do it?”
Mr Murray said he would spend his day remembering the genuine victims of both the Shankill bomb and the vicious loyalist backlash in the week that followed.
“I’m thinking today of the two council workers who were killed [in retaliation for the Shankill bomb], and it’s also coming up to Greysteel [massacre] anniversary and I’ll be thinking about them as well,” he said.
In recent days there were reports that Thomas Begley’s father Billy said “if we had known what Thomas was going to do that day, we would have chained him to his bed”.
After an initial report where Mr Begley appeared to distance himself from the Milltown gathering today, he told the Press Association he will be at the commemoration.
Mr Murray recalled Billy Begley sharing a platform with Sean Kelly at a similar event where a plaque was unveiled to Thomas Begley in the Ardoyne in 2013.
Mr Murray said: “Back then, watching the plaque unveiling it was really hard to handle. It just looked like a glorification. How can [the Milltown event] be a commemoration when he’s a child-killer?
“If the [Begley] family want to remember him privately I don’t mind that at all, but the way I felt when I saw that poster [advertising the Milltown commemoration] – it just looks like it’s rubbing salt into the Shankill bomb families’ wounds.”
Billy Begley declined to comment when contacted by the News Letter yesterday.