Shankill Bomb 30 years on

23.10.2023 | Moderator, Church in Society, Church Life, Congregational News, Commemorations, Legacy & Dealing with the past

Relatives of the nine people murdered by the IRA in the Shankill Road bomb – along with survivors of the explosion, first responders, members of the local community and other invited guests - gathered in West Kirk Presbyterian Church today, for a special memorial service to honour the memory of their loved ones, 30 years to the day when their lives were taken. The address was given by Presbyterian Moderator, Right Rev Dr Sam Mawhinney. 

The service was led by West Kirk’s minister, Rev David Clawson with children and young people from the local community also playing their part in the service, including the Belfast Boys’ Model School’s Head Boys who read Chapter 3 verses 18 to 26 from the Book of Lamentations. A choir drawn from Primary Schools in the Greater Shankill area sang two songs. The Rev Alan Conly, minister of  Shankill Woodvale Methodist Church, and Rev Canon Tracey McRoberts, Rector of St Mathew’s Church of Ireland also took part. Past and present political representatives attended the service, as did His Majesty's Lord Lieutenant for the County Borough of Belfast, Dame Fionnuala Mary Jay-O'Boyle.

During the Service the hymns, ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’, and ‘Amazing Grace’, were sung by the 90 invited guests, with a flautist playing ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ and ‘Abide with Me’ in a special ‘Tribute to the Innocent’. During this time, 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 primary school children were all grandchildren of Michael Morrison and his partner Evelyn Baird, who were both killed in the explosion, and nieces and nephews of Michelle, their daughter, who was also killed.

As a bell continued to toll nine times for each of the victims, the children then moved a few hundred yards up the Shankill Road to the site of Frizzell’s fish shop, where on Saturday, 23 October 1993, the bomb exploded. Here, the Shankill Wreath was laid, along with a wreath on behalf of the Belfast Girls’ Model School. Both tributes were laid at a new memorial that was dedicated that morning – a clock, carved in granite, with the names of the nine people killed inscribed upon it, along with nine hearts, its hands at six minutes past one, the time the bomb detonated.

Dr-Mawhinney-Rev-David-Clawson-(Shankill-Memorial-Service)-20231023.jpgSpeaking about the service, West Kirk’s minister, Rev David Clawson said, "It’s always an honour to serve the Shankill community as God’s people in West Kirk Presbyterian. It’s been our humble privilege to be able to host and lead this memorial service, as we did for the 20th and 25th anniversaries of the Shankill Bomb, and today has been both moving and poignant.

“I hope that these services give each of the victim’s 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.”

Speaking after the service, Dr 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.

“When we grieve and are full of sorrow, the Bible encourages us to lament, and that was the theme of my short address. It’s an old-fashioned term, but an appropriate one. To paraphrase what I said, as we lament the hatred in the human heart that causes people to plant bombs and to wish death on others, and as we lament the pain and the loss caused and the years lost, we are offered the rock of God's love and goodness. We are also reminded that Jeremiah the prophet lamented the destruction of his people and community, but recalled, and held on to the hope of God, his love and compassion – ‘because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail’ (Jeremiah 3:22),” he said.

Dr Mawhinney concluded by saying, “When we lament and come to Jesus, He offers us all a safe space, to relate in community. An innocent victim of injustice, He gave his life for His people. So, lament offers us this hope in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, hope of forgiveness from sin, hope of life, hope of renewal, hope of eternity. Jesus is for us, He hears us, He speaks with us, and He walks with us, especially the often-forgotten victims of sectarian violence. He also offers hope for society that is based on justice and mercy, love not hatred, forgiveness, not revenge, peace not conflict, and hope not despair.”

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.

Photos (1) The front cover of the Order of Service (2) the Moderator, Dr Mawhinney, and Rev David Clawson, minister of West Kirk after the service (3) the new memorial, dedicated today at the site of  Frizzell's fish shop, where the bomb exploded and (4) the living memorial of nine maple trees, each with a plaque with the name of one of the victims, in the garden to the left of West Kirk.

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