Sinn Fein defends decision to commemorate Shankill bomber

Nigel Dodds describes event planned in honour of Thomas Begley as ‘grotesque’

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly said the bombing was a ’terrible tragedy’ and that the family and friends of Thomas Begley will remember him with dignity and respect. Photograph: The Irish Times

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly said the bombing was a ’terrible tragedy’ and that the family and friends of Thomas Begley will remember him with dignity and respect. Photograph: The Irish Times

Tue, Oct 8, 2013, 13:21

Sinn Féin has defended a decision by north Belfast republicans to hold a commemoration for the Shankill bomber Thomas Begley.

Unionists described the event planned for later this month as “grotesque” and “sickening”.

Thomas Begley from Ardoyne died when the IRA bomb he was planting in Frizell’s fish shop on the Shankill Road 20 years ago this month exploded prematurely killing nine people and injuring more than 50.

Local republicans now plan to hold a commemoration for Mr Begley in Ardoyne on October 20th, three days before the 20th anniversary of the bombing. It is not a Sinn Féin -organised event.

This has provoked a response from unionists similar to the angry reaction to the summer Sinn Féin parade in Castlederg, Co Tyrone in memory of two IRA men who were also killed by their own bomb.

Nigel Dodds, the DUP MP for North Belfast, said the commemoration was “grotesque”. He said that Mr Begley took a “cold-blooded choice” to place a bomb in a crowded fish shop.

“His actions are not to be celebrated but should be a source of shame. There is no place in Northern Ireland for the glorification of killers such as Thomas Begley,” he added.

Ulster Unionist councillor, John Scott, whose niece Wilma McKee died in the explosion said that Mr Begley “wasn’t a hero and he wasn’t a victim”.

“For republicans to commemorate Begley as a hero is sickening and will only bring further trauma for victims and their families. They obviously have no thoughts for Wilma, the eight other people Begley murdered and those he injured,” he added.

Alliance East Belfast MP Naomi Long, “Those who are organising this event are failing to respect and show sensitivity for victims and it is clear lessons have not been learnt from the Castlederg parade, which caused great hurt and upset.

Likewise, this event has the potential to cause serious distress and set back community relations.”

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said the bombing was a “terrible tragedy” and that the people of the Shankill will be holding their own commemorations.

“Likewise the family and friends of Thomas Begley will remember him with dignity and respect. They have no intention of offending anyone,” he said.

“Everyone has a right to remember their loved ones and Thomas Begley’s family and friends are no different. Thomas Begley was not responsible for the conflict here - he lost his life as a result of the conflict he was born into,” added Mr Kelly.

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