Religious ministers tell of “difficult” work in aftermath of Shankill bomb

Aftermath of the Shankill bomb
Aftermath of the Shankill bomb

A Shankill Road minister has told of his shock at hearing about the 1993 bomb atrocity in the area while on holiday in Cyprus.

Former Archdeacon of Belfast, the Rev Barry Dodds, 70, who still ministers in St Michael’s on the Shankill Road, said he found out about the bomb when he attended a Sunday church service.

Around 1.05pm on October 23,1993, an IRA bomb detonated in Frizzell’s fish shop on the Shankill Road, which had been packed with shoppers. IRA man Thomas Begley had been carrying the device towards the refrigerated serving counter when it exploded prematurely killing him and nine innocent victims.

“I went to church on a Sunday morning in Cyprus and during the service they were praying for the people of the Shankill,” he said. “That was the first I had heard about the bomb, and it was a bit of a shock.

“It happened the day before, on a Saturday. Of course I came home to the aftermath. No one from my parish was killed or injured in the bombing, but lots of others felt the burden. Everyone in the parish was very traumatised by it, of course.”

The Rev Dodds said the “shock and trauma” of the Shankill bomb is “relived at times like special anniversaries”.

Meanwhile, Methodist minister at the time of the bomb, the Rev Arthur Parker, 79, said it was “quite difficult” to practise as a minister in the bomb aftermath.

“As a minister you had to be very careful about what you said so as to not intensify the damage that was done. But at the same time you had to support people. I visited most of the people who had been made victims.

“It was difficult. People were grieving and you had to comfort them and assure them – and that was very hard. It is not an easy task.”

The Rev Parker, who is now retired, said he was in the Shankill Team Ministry at the time of the bomb and saw the aftermath in the Mater Hospital where the injured were taken: “At the time of the bomb I was out in the City Hospital where I was chaplain. So I went from the City Hospital to the Mater Hospital after the bomb had taken place. That was difficult but you had to give support.”

He said he was involved in a committee set up after the atrocity to give financial assistance to victims’ families.

“We received a lot of money from all parts of Ireland and people were very generous.

“The committee arranged to give it out to those who needed it. Although the Presbyterian minister had to conduct the majority of the funerals after the bomb, I was there to lend support.”