Families of Shankill Road bomb victims unveil memorial on anniversary of attack

A church service also took place at West Kirk Presbyterian Church.

Jonathan McCambridge
Monday 23 October 2023 16:15 BST
Gina Murray and Robert Baird, who had family members killed in the Shankill Road blast, during the unveiling and dedication (Oliver McVeigh/PA)
Gina Murray and Robert Baird, who had family members killed in the Shankill Road blast, during the unveiling and dedication (Oliver McVeigh/PA) (PA Wire)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

The families of those who lost their lives in the Shankill Road bombing in Belfast have come together to unveil a new memorial on the 30th anniversary of the IRA atrocity.

The memorial on the site of the former Frizzell’s fish shop shows a clock with its hands stopped at 1.06pm, the time that the bomb exploded in 1993.

The relatives then attended a remembrance service in West Kirk Presbyterian Church where they were told that “mayhem” had been visited on the community 30 years ago.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and former SDLP MP for west Belfast Joe Hendron were among those who attended the church service, while several hundred people lined the Shankill Road.

Nine people, including two young girls, were killed in the bombing of Frizzell’s fish shop on October 23 1993, while dozens were injured.

One of the IRA bombers was also killed in the blast.

The victims were the fish shop owner, John Frizzell, 63, his daughter Sharon McBride, 29, Michael Morrison, 27, his partner Evelyn Baird, 27, their daughter, Michelle, seven, George Williamson, 63, Gillian Williamson, 49, Wilma McKee, 38, and Leanne Murray, 13.

Garry Murray, whose sister Leanne was 13 when she was killed, said the bombing had devastated his family.

He said: “It is hard. There are mixed emotions. It is very heartfelt.

“I always think about that day. Every day, every minute, it never leaves me.

“It destroyed my family. It destroyed my mum, it destroyed myself for years.

“It is something I don’t think we are ever going to get over.

“My sister Leanne Murray was 13 when she was killed in the Shankill Road bombing.

“Days like today are very important. I want all of the community to stand together and support us.”

Welcoming the congregation to the church, Rev David Clawson said it was an opportunity for everyone to stand in solidarity to remember the tragic events of 30 years ago.

He said: “As that bomb exploded without warning on that sunny Saturday afternoon mayhem was visited upon this community.

“Nine innocent people who were going about their daily business lost their lives and many others were injured.

“So we stop in the middle of our lives to take a moment to remember.”

He said that the lives of all those who were impacted were never the same following the tragedy.

A number of survivors of the explosion and members of the emergency services who attended the scene were also at the memorial service, where an address was given by the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rev Sam Mawhinney.

Children from three schools, Harmony Primary School, Springfield Primary, and Belfast Girls’ Model, left the church to lay floral tributes at the memorial lamp in the Shankill Memorial Park next to West Kirk.

The pupils were all grandchildren of Mr Morrison and his partner Ms Baird, who were both killed in the explosion, and nieces and nephews of Michelle, their daughter, who was also killed.

As a bell tolled nine times to remember the victims, a wreath was laid at the site of the new memorial at the exact time the bomb exploded.

I hope that these services give each of the victims' families comfort, even 30 years on

Rev David Clawson

Rev Clawson said: “I hope that these services give each of the victims’ families comfort, even 30 years on, as we come together, with the whole community embracing them, both inside and outside of the church.

“At today’s service, we stood with them in their grief, looking to the Lord, who shares in our tears and leads us towards hope, especially in times of sorrow, through the resurrection of Jesus.

“It’s been our prayer that as we came together, and gathered for worship, that the grace and peace of Christ would be a soothing balm for the souls of the families, for our Shankill community, and the countless thousands affected by the Troubles.”

Rev Mawhinney, said, “For those most intimately affected by this appalling tragedy 30 years ago today, I am sure that it feels like it was only yesterday, and the pain and the sorrow they feel for their loved ones, still runs deep.

“I count it a special privilege to have been invited to today’s memorial service and to have had an opportunity to sympathise with family members, relatives and friends of those murdered and injured.”

As well as the unveiling and dedication of a new memorial at the site of Frizzell’s fish shop, nine trees have been planted in the garden on the Conway Street side of West Kirk Presbyterian Church, as a living memorial.

Each has an individual plaque and tribute from the families.

The week following the Shankill Road attack in 1993 there was further devastation when eight people were killed by loyalists in Greysteel, Co Londonderry, in what was regarded as a retaliatory attack.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the pain on the Shankill Road still resonates today.

He said: “It was a shocking and indiscriminate attack which tore through a busy shopping street on a quiet Saturday afternoon.

“Three decades later the community in the greater Shankill area remain united in a determination that those murdered on that day will never be forgotten.

“The Shankill bombing was one of the worst atrocities in our troubled past and it sparked retaliation, creating other innocent victims in its wake.

“The new memorial on the Shankill is one of many which bears testament to the suffering imposed on our country by terrorism.”

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