McDonald defends Sinn Féin attendance at memorial to Shankill bomber

Thomas Begley died, along with nine victims, when IRA bomb he was carrying exploded

Thomas Begley, the IRA bomber who blew himself up in the Shankill bomb in 1993.

Thomas Begley, the IRA bomber who blew himself up in the Shankill bomb in 1993.

 

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald has defended party members attending a commemoration to Shankill bomber Thomas Begley

The memorial event has been strongly criticised by relatives of the nine bomb victims who earlier this week marked the 25th anniversary of the IRA attack.

Begley died, along with the nine victims, after the bomb he was carrying exploded when he entered Frizzell’s fish shop on the Shankill Road in Belfast in October 1993.

Sinn Féin members are expected to attend the tribute at Belfast’s Milltown Cemetery on Saturday. The Begley family insisted they are attending the commemoration despite earlier media reports suggested they were snubbing the event.

A number of posters advertising Saturday’s tribute event have been put up in Belfast.

Speaking in Dublin on Friday, the Sinn Féin leader said events of remembrance are “difficult and sensitive”.

“I have consistently said that for us to respect each other and for us to begin the process of healing and reconciliation, we have to allow for remembrance by everybody, by all sides,” Ms McDonald said. “That includes, in this case, the loved ones and families of those who were killed in the bomb and that includes Thomas Begley.

“I know that creates a difficulty for people, it creates controversy but the truth is for us really to begin the process of putting the conflict to rest and creating a healing environment we have to allow for remembrance on all sides and I’m saying that very conscious of the fact that creates a sensitivity and difficulty for many people.”

Meanwhile, Begley’s family confirmed they will attend the commemoration. In a statement, his father Billy Begley senior said: “I and my members of my family will be in attendance at the dignified and respectful commemoration in memory of our son Thomas being held tomorrow at the Republican Plot in Belfast.

“I am asking media to respect the privacy of our family home at this difficult time.” - PA