A 22-year-old IRA Volunteer who died after the device he was carrying exploded prematurely 25 years ago was remembered in a commemoration in Belfast last Sunday.
Sean Kelly, who was badly injured in the 1993 attack, was the main speaker at the commemoration for Thomas Begley, known as Bootsy.
Around 200 people attended Saturday’s commemoration, among them Mr Begley’s father Billy and a number of high profile republicans, including Bobby Storey and Sean Murray.
Nine civilians tragically died in the attack against the leadership of the paramilitary UDA in the heart the loyalist Shankill Road, leading to claims by unionists that it was sectarian in nature.
Mr Kelly was badly injured and Vol. Begley died instantly when the bomb exploded prematurely, for reasons which have long been the subject of speculation.
The attack was followed by some of the worst loyalist atrocities of the conflict, and the week of violence has been linked to the decision of the Provisional IRA to declare a ceasefire some ten months later.
Mr Kelly said the unionists claims about the attack were false, but used the latest anniversary to reiterate his apology for the tragedy. He told the crowd: “The motives for our actions have been misrepresented, but I know that is of little consequence for the families of those civilians who lost their lives on the Shankill that day.
“I am truly sorry for the loss of life and injuries suffered on that day, but there is nothing I can say that can bring any comfort to the families of the victims.
“Let me say, however, that today’s event is one of respectful and dignified commemoration of Bootsy - this is no glorification of the events of that awful day, but we stand in solidarity with Bootsy’s grieving family and we remember all of those who died during the conflict.
“So Bootsy, may you rest in peace - you were my friend, you were my comrade, and I will never forget you and I will cherish the times we had to together.”
Mr Kelly laid a wreath at a memorial plaque to Mr Begley and others of his brigade buried in the cemetery. The event also saw a piper play the Irish anthem and a rendition of the republican ballad Down by The Glenside.
Sinn Fein councillor Seanna Walsh, a former IRA prisoner, also addressed the commemoration. He said there could be “no hierarchy of victims” as he also paid tribute to Mr Begley.
“Everyone has a right to remember their dead in a respectful manner,” he added.
“The past will always be a contested space - there is no single narrative to any conflict, no matter where it happened in the world or at any time in history.”
Meanwhile, the families of victims killed in the Greysteel massacre gathered in the County Derry village on Tuesday night to mark the 25th anniversary of the atrocity, which took place a week after the Shankill attack.
Families attended a special Mass at Star of the Sea church followed by a memorial service outside the Rising Sun bar where eight people were killed when UDA gunmen burst into the bar on the night before Halloween in 1993.
One of the gunmen shouted “trick or treat” before he opened fire. Seven people were shot dead. An eighth person later died from his injuries.
This week, local SDLP representative John Dallat urged one of the murder gang, Torrens Knight, to reveal the truth of the atrocity in which state collusion is suspected. Knight has newspapers he regrets the murders and called them “unjustifiable”.
Mr Dallat said his apology was not enough.
“Torrens Knight holds the key to unlocking the insight to one of the worst periods of genocide that took place in this part of Ireland during the eighties,” he said.
By doing so, the former loyalist gunman would help prevent such attacks taking place again, Mr Dallat added. “Of course, people cannot be brought back to life again but he can expose those who masterminded the campaign which directed him and his cohorts to go murdering at Castlerock and Greysteel.”