I suspect that I am not the only Republican made uneasy by a community plan in Ardoyne to hold a public commemoration to mark the anniversary of the death on active service of 22 year old Thomas Begley, a Volunteer of the Belfast Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. He died during a 1993 attack intended to eliminate the local West Belfast leadership of the UDA-UFF, a British state-controlled terrorist faction in the north-east of Ireland, which was due to hold its regular Saturday morning meeting in a room situated above Frizzell’s Fish Shop on the Shankill Road. Begley and another member of his Active Service Unit were depositing an explosive device in the building when it exploded prematurely killing the Volunteer and eight civilians (including two children) and leaving scores injured as the building collapsed. A known British terrorist was also killed but the rest of those targeted in the strike escaped unharmed as the gathering was cancelled due to an intelligence-based warning from within the RUC, the British paramilitary police force.
Whatever about a private function by family and friends to mark the death of Thomas Begley I believe that a public one, even without the official participation of Sinn Féin, is simply insensitive given the terrible loss of life at the time and should be reconsidered. Whatever happens on the October anniversary the deaths of so many entirely innocent non-combatants, regardless of the military intent of the strike, cannot go by without acknowledgement. And, indeed, one might well ask whether those participating in such an operation are deserving of any official remembrance at all since collateral damage to civilian life and property would seem to have been inevitable, whatever the then circumstances. One can hardly criticise acts of deliberate or reckless violence by state or non-state forces and then gloss over the actions of others when convenient or politic to do so. Whether carpet-bombing German cities from the air in times past or carrying out drone-strikes in Pakistan in times present there should be no hierarchy of victims.