Northern Ireland

Shankill Road falls silent to remember one of the darkest days of the Troubles

Pupils before laying floral tributes at the memorial lamp in the Shankill Memorial Park in Belfast to mark the 30th anniversary of the Shankill bomb (Oliver McVeigh/PA)
Pupils before laying floral tributes at the memorial lamp in the Shankill Memorial Park in Belfast to mark the 30th anniversary of the Shankill bomb (Oliver McVeigh/PA)

As people on the normally busy Shankill Road in Belfast fell silent, the only sound to be heard was a solitary bell which rang nine times.

The ringing represented the nine innocent victims of one of the most infamous terrorist attacks from Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

As onlookers lined the streets in the predominantly unionist area on Monday lunchtime, many remembered a sunny Saturday three decades ago when lives were devastated by an IRA bomb.

Nine people were killed in the attack which also claimed the lives of one of the bombers on October 23 1993.

Shankill bomb anniversary
The new memorial on the Shankill Road in Belfast (Oliver McVeigh/PA)

Members of all nine families were there as a new memorial was unveiled. It shows a clock face with the hands forever stopped at 1.06pm, the exact moment when the bomb detonated.

The plaque also contains the names and ages of the nine victims, as well as an image of the former Frizzell’s fish shop, which was destroyed in the bombing.

But while Monday was a day to look back, it also represented a chance to look forward for people on the Shankill. The next generations were represented by local schoolchildren who sang and delivered readings at a church service in West Kirk Presbyterian Church.

As lunchtime neared, the bell began to sound and local schoolchildren left the church to lay flowers and wreaths at the nearby memorial sites.

Shankill bomb anniversary
Alan McBride (right) and daughter Zoe, whose wife and mother was killed, walk to the unveiling and dedication on the Shankill Road (Oliver McVeigh/PA)

Alan McBride, who lost his wife Sharon in the attack, said the anniversary represented a rare opportunity for the families to come together.

He said: “It is always hard.

“I think for me the last two years have been the most difficult and I think that is not so much about the anniversaries, they come and go – for me it is about my daughter getting older.

“Two years ago she surpassed Sharon in age she was when she died at 29, and last year she gave birth to my first little grandchild, and her mum wasn’t there to see it.

“Those things are really hard.”

Mr McBride said he believed that more needed to be done by politicians to deliver peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

He said: “I just hope that this place can get its act together.

“One of the things in the 30 years I’ve been campaigning for peace and for reconciliation is that our politicians have badly let us down, and these are people who didn’t suffer anything near what people like myself and others have suffered.

“Our government is still down today. We were promised in 1998 peace and a prosperous society would be a lasting memorial to all those who were murdered.

“We don’t have that because we don’t have a functioning executive at the minute. So I think: shame on them.

“I am frustrated because I’ve put a lot of my life into building reconciliation, trying to build peace right across the divide. The fact that they can’t make this work for all the people that were killed, it is shameful.

“Thank God we are not going back to those days but we do need to press on now with peace and reconciliation.”

Mr McBride’s frustration with the Stormont stalemate was shared by Garry Murray, whose sister Leanne was 13 when she was killed in the explosion.

Shankill bomb anniversary
Garry Murray and Gina Murray, who had family members killed in the blast, during the unveiling and dedication on the Shankill Road in Belfast of the new memorial before a service to mark the 30th anniversary of the Shankill bomb (Oliver McVeigh/PA)

He said: “I would like Stormont to get back together to sort out education.

“I never ever ever want to see anything happen ever again to go back to those dark days for all victims, not just the Shankill Road, but also Greysteel (a mass shooting in October 1993, one week after the Shankill bombing, in which eight people died in Co Derry), I am thinking about them all this week.

“It will never ever be forgotten what happened here. It was a terrorist atrocity, it was the IRA who blew nine innocent people up on the Shankill Road, just terrorists.”

He said the memorial event was an opportunity for people to remember his sister Leanne.

Mr Murray added: “I just want everybody to remember her for the loving, sweet girl that she was.”