Parents of toddler killed by IRA bomb braced for 50th anniversary service today

The elderly parents of a toddler killed by a no-warning IRA bomb are bracing themselves for an emotional service today marking fifty years since the loss of their son Colin.

By Mark Rainey
Saturday, 11th December 2021, 7:33 am
Updated Sunday, 12th December 2021, 10:02 am
Jackie Nicholl pictured at his home in 2018 after he resigned from the victims commission. His 17 month old son was killed by an IRA bomb in 1971. Picture by Arthur Allison/Pacemaker

With no hope of anyone ever being brought to justice, Belfast couple Jackie and Ann Nicholl’s only comfort has been the support of the Shankill Road community and those well-wishers who remember the Balmoral Furniture showrooms blast that claimed four lives - including two children.

On December 11, 1971, a neighbour of Jackie’s mother had taken 17-month-old Colin for a Saturday afternoon walk in his pram.

As they passed the furniture shop on the Shankill Road the bomb exploded - killing Colin, two-year-old Tracey Munn, Hugh Bruce aged 70 and 20-year-old Catholic Harold King.

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Nineteen other people were injured, some of them seriously.

“There is no way that we are thinking about justice,” Jackie said.

“My son is fifty years dead on Saturday and not once has anyone from the RUC or the PSNI come to us to talk about it. It is a disgrace that I hear other cases being talked about.

“It is terrible.

“There will be a memorial event on the Shankill on Saturday, so it will be an emotional day.”

Still grieving five decades on, Jackie said it would be hard for anyone who hasn’t lost a child in this way to understand how he feels.

“Anyone who has lost their child knows how deep that hole can be.

“It is a very big hole that no one can fill for us... no matter what,” he said.

Jackie became a committed trade unionist “working for everyone”, and was elected chairman of the North Belfast branch of the Northern Ireland Labour Party.

No organisation claimed responsibility for the blast but it was believed that the Provisional IRA attacked the showroom in retaliation for the UVF bombing of McGurk’s bar the previous week.

Jackie said his “head was in turmoil” for quite a while after the murders.

“I don’t know how I coped,” he said.

Work helped me a bit. I was a sheet metal worker in the shipyard and worked with brilliant people. They were a great comfort and great friends.

“And my wife and I can’t thank the people of the Shankill Road enough, for all their thoughts and memories of our child.

“They have been very, very good.

“When people remember, it really does help us.”

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