Church service remembers victims of Shankill bomb 25 years on

Hundreds of people from across the communities of Northern Ireland have come together for a church service to mark the 25th anniversary of the Shankill bomb.

The normally busy Shankill Road in Belfast was silent and closed to traffic on Tuesday as people gathered to remember the nine victims, including two young girls, who were killed when an IRA bomb detonated inside a busy shop on October 23, 1993.

One of the IRA bombers also died.

Relatives of victims embrace at the service (Liam McBurney/PA)

Relatives, including Gina Murray, whose daughter Leanne was killed in the blast, embraced before the service.

Victims from other atrocities during Northern Ireland’s past, including the Ballymurphy massacre, attended in a show of solidarity with the Shankill families.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds, Alliance leader Naomi Long, TUV leader Jim Allister and Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler were among the politicians in attendance.

George Lenahan greets DUP leader Arlene Foster and DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds outside West Kirk (Liam McBurney/PA)

Joe Hendron, who was the SDLP MP for West Belfast at the time of the bomb, was also at the service, along with SDLP councillor Tim Attwood.

West Kirk Presbyterian church was filled to capacity, and lines of people gathered along the road outside to hear the service which was relayed outside by speakers.

Shops closed as a mark of respect during the service.

People listening to the service outside the church (Liam McBurney/PA)

Rev David Clawson welcomed everyone both in and outside the church.

He said he had been overwhelmed by the number of messages of support for the families and communities.

Zoe McBride, who was just two when her mother Sharon was killed in the bombing, gave a Bible reading during the service.

Alan McBride, Jude Whyte and Zoe McBride in West Kirk Presbyterian Church in Belfast for a service to mark the 25th anniversary of the IRA bombing of a fish shop on Shankill Road. Liam McBurney/PA

Speaking before the service, her father Alan spoke of his pride in his daughter.

“It is the first time she has done anything public so I suspect she will be nervous. She is a wonderful girl, she has done really well at school. Her mum would be so proud of her today, and I know I am so proud of her,” he told Press Association.

The exact time that the Shankill bomb exploded – 1.06pm – was marked midway through the service.

School children from schools which the two youngest victims attended, seven-year-old Michelle Baird and 13-year-old Leanne Murray, laid flowers at the site of the blast at 1.06pm to mark the moment of devastation.

Representatives from Belfast Model School for Girls (right) and Harmony Primary School (left) lay a wreath (Liam McBurney/PA)

Flowers were also laid at a nearby memorial garden.

Mrs Foster spoke to Mrs Murray following the service.

“I think the message today that we were given during the service of hope is one that will resonate very well with the families and I know it’s been a great comfort to them,” Mrs Foster said.

She added: “I think it was wonderful to have a cross-community presence here today, people showing solidarity with victims, innocent people who were out shopping on a Saturday afternoon and whose lives were snuffed out, for no reason.

DUP leader Arlene Foster speaks with Gina Murray (right) and her son Gary Murray (centre) (Liam McBurney/PA)

“It’s been very humbling to be here today with the families to stand in solidarity with them.”

Mrs Foster later visited an exhibition about the Shankill bomb.

- Press Association

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