Pain of Shankill bomb is just as real after 25 years

Relatives of those killed in the 1993 Shankill bomb attack say the pain of their brutal loss is just as real now as it was 25 years ago today.

The Shankill bomb was one of the most notorious atrocities of the Troubles. It saw the IRA kill nine Protestant civilians and injure more than 50 others when its no-warning bomb exploded on the afternoon of Saturday, October 23 1993.

Clockwise from top left:  John Frizzell, Leanne  Murray,  Michael Morrison,  Evelyn Baird, Sharon McBride,  Wilma McKee, Michelle Baird (centre), George and Gillian Williamson

Clockwise from top left: John Frizzell, Leanne Murray, Michael Morrison, Evelyn Baird, Sharon McBride, Wilma McKee, Michelle Baird (centre), George and Gillian Williamson

Two IRA members, Thomas Begley and Sean Kelly, posed as delivery drivers to plant the bomb in Frizzell’s fish shop, An apparently premature explosion killed Begley and injured Kelly.

The IRA said it was targeting loyalists it claimed met above the shop, however nobody was there at the time.

The Shankill community is holding a series of events to honour the loved ones killed.

Michelle Williamson, whose parents George, 63, and Gillian, 47, were killed in the bombing, says she is still “hurt and angry” and has not had space to grieve after 25 years.

A soldier stands on guard in the aftermath of the 1993 Shankill Bomb in Belfast in 1993. Photo: Pacemaker

A soldier stands on guard in the aftermath of the 1993 Shankill Bomb in Belfast in 1993. Photo: Pacemaker

“It is hard to believe it is 25 years on,” she said. “It doesn’t get any easier. I just feel that this date is important to remember the victims of the Shankill.

“I feel as though it just happened yesterday and it is hard to believe it is 25 years on and I am still hurt and still angry and still miss my mum and dad and they are still with me every day.”

Michelle was 27 and still living at home in Lisburn with her parents when they were killed. They had just moved in to a new house behind their original home the day before they were murdered. Michelle was to live in the old family home right next door to them.

“They had gone shopping to the Shankill for material for new curtains for the new house when they were killed,” she said. “I have thought about this anniversary from January 1 and I have been dreading it. The fact that it is a big anniversary, it just brings it all back from what happened on the day.

Michelle Williamson who lost her mother and father in the Shankill bombing. Photo: Presseye.com

Michelle Williamson who lost her mother and father in the Shankill bombing. Photo: Presseye.com

“You can never forgive or forget.

“I meet up with all the other victims of the Shankill bomb and the only time we seem to meet is at the anniversaries.

“Every year instead of being left alone to grieve and go to a church service and remember my mum and dad and the other innocent victims of this atrocity, I know that instead I will probably end up watching in disbelief as Sinn Fein/IRA yet again try to justify and glorify their cowardly actions on that day.”

Michelle did not accept the apology from Sean Kelly at the 20th anniversary event held in the nationalist Ardoyne area.

Emergency services removing a body from the rubble after the Shankill Bomb in 1993. Photo: Pacemaker

Emergency services removing a body from the rubble after the Shankill Bomb in 1993. Photo: Pacemaker

“It didn’t come from the heart, he should have apologised to us in person,” she said.

In 2018, Michelle says she and other families would like closure.

It particular, she and Gary Murray, whose sister Leanne was killed, are concerned that Sean Kelly has not been recalled to prison again, after having been given nine life sentences for the bombing. He was given early release under the Good Friday Agreement after serving only seven years but later recalled to jail for a spell by then secretary of state Peter Hain. He has since been arrested and released without charge in a series of terrorist investigations.

“And then he gets up and parades himself as a hero,” Michelle said. “That is what galls me about the whole thing.”

The Northern Ireland Office said it does not comment on individual cases.

As for current government proposals on dealing with the past, Michelle’s number one concern is the definition of a victim, which currently includes those guilty of murder.

“I feel very strongly that should have been discussed first and the law should be changed.”

As to government proposals on dealing with the past, she was disappointed that victims were not directly contacted for their views.

“We were never engaged with at the start, they never asked to meet all the victims. They come with these proposals, threw them on the table and then expected us to accept them.”

Michelle says pressure has been building on her for the 10 months leading up to the anniversary.

“I have been dreading this day since January. The fact is that it is a quarter of a century and I am 25 years on without my mum and dad and I miss them as if they died yesterday. It is still in my heart and that is because I have never been allowed to grieve for them. I have always had injustice done, I have always had to stand up and fight my corner and I have just never had time to grieve for them and I am just dreading Tuesday. I just hope I can come through it alright and not dwell too much on it.”

Last night Michelle attended a walk along the Shankill to remember victims of five different bomb attacks on the road. Today she will attend the memorial service for the victims at West Kirk Presbyterian Church at 12.15pm.

As well as IRA bomber Thomas Begley, 23, nine Protestant civilians were killed in the attack:

Michael Morrison, 27, died alongside his partner Evelyn Baird, also 27, and their seven-year-old daughter Michelle, who loved to eat crab sticks from the fish shop every Saturday. Their other daughter, nine, and son, six weeks, were left orphaned.

Mother-of-two Wilma McKee, 38, survived the blast but died in hospital the following day.

George, 63, and Gillian, 49, Williamson from Lisburn had just moved house and were on a trip to buy curtains when killed. The couple had two children, one of them Michelle, who speaks on the opposite page.

Father-of-three John Desmond Frizzell, 63, owned the fish shop which was targeted. He has was a well-known gospel singer.

Sharon McBride, 29, was married to Alan McBride and killed as she helped out at her father John Frizzell’s fish shop.

Leanne Murray, 13, had been shopping with her mum Gina and popped into the fish shop on her own for whelks. It was not her mum’s first heartbreak.

Gina’s husband had died from a stroke only eight months before the blast. She also lost a five-year-old son in a road accident and a baby boy in a stillbirth.