IRA bomb victims demand justice on 25th anniversary
Victims of one of the most notorious IRA bombings of the Northern Ireland conflict have said they are still awaiting proper justice.
A devastating blast reduced Frizzell’s fish shop on the Shankill Road in West Belfast to a pile of rubble and took nine innocent lives 25 years ago on Tuesday. The killer served less than a year in prison for every life he ended.
A series of events is planned to mark the anniversary, including a memorial walk and a special church service.
Charlie Butler, 64, scrambled through the rubble along with hundreds of others searching for the wounded. He later discovered his niece, her partner and her child aged just seven had died.
Mr Butler said: “We did not get justice when a man who walked past women and kids into a shop to blow people to bits, did a couple of years in jail and walked out, never to be repentant.
“Who drove them there, who made the bomb, who gave the orders?
“Maybe if we got those questions answered, maybe then things could settle a bit.
“We have moved on, we want to move on.”
The Government is considering establishing institutions to seek fresh prosecutions and retrieve more information about thousands of Troubles-era killings.
The IRA said it was targeting an Ulster Defence Association (UDA) leadership meeting due to be held above the Shankill fish shop when the device exploded prematurely.
IRA man Thomas Begley also died in the blast.
Another, Sean Kelly, walked free from prison early as part of the Good Friday Agreement deal, struck in 1998, which largely ended decades of violence.
He served less than a year for each life he took.
Mr Butler said the perpetrators had to walk past women and kids, people with prams and into a packed shop.
“I think lunatics are the name for them, I don’t think you could describe them as anything else.”
He had hoped that would be the end of the bloodshed.
It continued, a few days later loyalists opened fire in the Rising Sun bar in Greysteel on the north coast.
The victims of the Shankill have shared their grief with others caught up in atrocities.
Mr Butler said: “We have told each other, it was not done in our name, and what we are saying is, if it was not done in our name then whose name was it done in?
“We were both sides of the community here, Catholics and Protestants, whose name was it done in, why was it done?
“Those are the answers we want.”
He recalled the day of the bombing, when he was running a taxi company.
“I got to the bottom of the street and within seconds saw nothing but clouds of dust and smoke.
“I saw a girl lying in the middle of the road with really bad head injuries and other injuries.
“I ran over and there were people attending to her.
“I looked over to where Frizzell’s shop was, through the dust and smoke saw nothing except ruins.
“It just looked as if the whole shop had come down on top of anyone that was there.”
His instinct to help kicked in.
“I along with hundreds of other people got on the rubble, climbed through it.
“Unfortunately we knew there were fatalities because as I was digging I came across the body of little Leanne Murray, a 13-year-old schoolgirl.
“I am not a medic but I knew nothing could be done.”
He carried her on a stretcher to an ambulance, noticing another three bodies inside the vehicle.
He later realised his niece Evelyn Baird, 27, her partner Michael Morrison and her child Michelle Baird aged seven were missing.
They had been ordering a wreath for Mr Morrison’s father, who had died two days earlier.