Editorial: Remembering the victims of the IRA atrocity on the Shankill Road

Morning View (Photo: gina)
Morning View (Photo: gina)

​The Shankill bomb, in which 10 people died, happened 30 years ago today.

It was towards the end of the three decades of IRA terrorism, in which there were so many atrocities in which multiple civilians died.

This weekend there was a dignified commemoration of that terrible day. We remember the nine victims who were murdered and the many people who were injured, who were out and about on a high street early on a Saturday afternoon, when the area was crowded with women and children.

One of the murderers, Thomas Begley, was killed by his own hand, the other, Seán Kelly, was sentenced to life in jail but released under the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

The following year, the Provisional IRA would declare a ceasefire. Not before time. The IRA massacres in which many civilians died are too many to list, and include the slaughter of Protestants at Kingsmill, the La Mon firebomb murders and the heinous Poppy bomb assault in Enniskillen.

When critics such as Robert McCartney QC repeatedly asked whether that 1994 ceasefire was permanent, they were swatted away by the late John Hume as if their query was begrudgery. It wasn’t. When Sinn Fein did not make the talks progress it wanted, the IRA resumed the bombing with a huge blast at Canary Wharf in London in 1996, which also took civilian life.

Any analogies between Northern Ireland and the Middle East should always be treated with caution, for many reasons including the far greater scale of violence in and around Israel. Even so, it is striking how restrained was the UK response to IRA terrorism. Its leaders were allowed to live and to come off their long campaign of terror at a time of their choosing.

Many people, on the Shankill and elsewhere, died during this long period of tolerance. That is bad enough, but the distortion of history, led by Sinn Fein, to turn the bombers into the good guys has made it all the worse.