Plans for a memorial event commemorating Shankill bomber Thomas Begley have been branded “sickening” and “beyond grotesque”.
The event is due to take place at the republican plot in Belfast’s Milltown Cemetery on Saturday – just four days after relatives of the nine Shankill bomb victims gathered to remember their loved ones on the 25th anniversary of the terrorist atrocity.
IRA bomber ‘Bootsy’ Begley also died in the attack on Frizzell’s fish shop when the device he was planting went off prematurely. His fellow bomber Sean Kelly was injured in the blast.
Posters advertising the event to mark the 25th anniversary of Begley’s death have been put up in the windows of a number of commercial premises in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast.
They show a picture of Begley alongside a military-style figure with head bowed holding a gun. Underneath are the words ‘Fuair siad bás ar son Saoirse na hÉireann’ (They died for Irish freedom).
A spokesperson for Sinn Fein said Saturday’s commemoration is being organised by Thomas Begley’s family and friends, but confirmed that the party “will be represented at the event”.
Michelle Williamson, who lost her parents George and Gillian in the no-warning bomb attack in October 1993, described the planned commemoration as “disgusting”.
“I was quite pleased that the anniversary of the Shankill bomb wasn’t tarnished by them celebrating their hero. I was quite pleased that there was nothing on the day, but I don’t think it’s appropriate that they commemorate a mass murderer. What he did in the Shankill bomb was a terrible atrocity and there was an awful loss of life that day, yet for him to be glorified as a hero is just sickening,” she said.
“This is the man who, along with (Sean) Kelly, murdered innocent victims on the Shankill Road that day and I just feel it’s disgusting, but at least it didn’t happen on the day of the anniversary.
“I wouldn’t say ‘well that’s nice of them for doing it on the Saturday’, they shouldn’t be doing it full stop.”
Michelle, who was 27-years-old at the time of the murderous attack, gathered with other family members for the Walk to Remember event on the Shankill Road on Monday and the memorial church service on Tuesday – the anniversary of the bombing.
While she acknowledges the right of Begley’s family and friends to remember him, she insists they should do it “in a quiet and dignified way” – in a way that doesn’t add to the hurt and pain of his victims.
South Armagh victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer branded the planned commemoration “beyond grotesque” and accused republicans of “glorifying Provo terrorists” and “idolising and normalising actions of absolute depravity”.
“Victims who speak out and condemn such commemorations are accused of living in the past, they’re told to move on. Republicans need called out on their hypocrisy, their lack of respect and remorse needs highlighted and scrutinised,” he said.
“The victims won’t be intimidated or silenced – the fight for truth, justice and closure continues.”
Accusing republicans of “glorifying a terrorist and terrorism”, North Belfast DUP MLA William Humphrey posted on Facebook: “Let’s be clear, there was nothing glorious or brave in what Thomas Begley did, his actions were vile and evil. Begley died planting the Shankill bomb, a device which murdered nine innocent people, including children.”