Thomas Begley

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Thomas Begley
Born 10 November 1970
Ardoyne, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Died 23 October 1993 (aged 22)
Shankill Road, Belfast
Cause of death Bomb explosion
Nationality Irish
Other names "Bootsy"
Known for Provisional Irish Republican Army volunteer

Thomas Begley (10 November 1970 – 23 October 1993), was a volunteer in the Belfast Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). Begley was killed when a bomb he was planting on the Shankill Road, West Belfast, Northern Ireland intended to kill senior members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) exploded prematurely, killing him, a UDA member and eight Ulster Protestant civilians.


Begley was born in the Irish nationalist Ardoyne area of north Belfast.[1] In January 1993 Begley joined the Provisional IRA.[1]

Paramilitary activity

Begley was linked to the killing of Royal Irish Regiment soldier Stephen Waller on 30 December 1992, at Waller's home in Belfast. He was identified by Waller's wife.[2]

Intelligence given to Begley and fellow members of his active service unit stated that a meeting was scheduled to take place between senior members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) on 23 October 1993, in a flat above Frizzell's Fish Shop on the Shankill Road.[citation needed]

Begley and two other IRA volunteers from the Ardoyne area hijacked a blue Ford Escort and drove it to the fish shop. When they arrived, Begley and Sean Kelly, wearing the white coats and caps of delivery men, entered the shop carrying the bomb. Begley was killed when the bomb exploded prematurely, also killing an off-duty UDA member, Michael Morrison, and eight civilians, including two children. Forensic evidence pointed to Begley holding the five pound bomb, which had an 11 second fuse, above the refrigerated serving counter at the fish shop when it exploded. Kelly was convicted of murder for his part in the Shankill Road bombing.[3]


IRA member Eddie Copeland was shot and injured when a British Army soldier fired 20 live rounds in a crowd of mourners who were attending Begley's wake in north Belfast. Private Andrew Clarke, 27 from Merseyside, who fired the shots, was later jailed for ten years for attempted murder.[4][5][6][7]

Begley's funeral caused comment when the Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams carried Begley's coffin.[8][9]


Violence erupted in Northern Ireland in the weeks after Begley's death. The UDA stated that they would obtain revenge for the attack and claimed "John Hume, Gerry Adams and the nationalist electorate will pay a heavy, heavy price for today's atrocity." Within 12 hours of the Shankill bombing, a 22-year-old male Catholic civilian was shot and killed, and within a week five others were also killed.[10]

In 2001, residents of the loyalist Glenbryn estate displayed a banner, on the eighth anniversary of Begley's bombing, with the words "Walk of Shame", and photographs of those killed by the bomb attached, as riot police escorted schoolgirls and their parents along Ardoyne Road during the Holy Cross dispute.[11]

A mural dedicated to deceased IRA volunteers, including Begley, was painted in Ardoyne Avenue, near the Begley family home.[12] In October 2013, 20 years after the fish shop bombing, a plaque commemorating Begley was unveiled in the republican Ardoyne section of North Belfast.[13]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Tírghrá, National Commemoration Centre, 2002. PB); ISBN 0-9542946-0-2, p. 358
  2. McKittrick, David. Lost Lives. Mainstream, 1999, pp. 1304-05
  3. A Secret History of the IRA, Ed Moloney, 2002. (PB) ISBN 0-393-32502-4; (HB); ISBN 0-7139-9665-X, p. 415
  4. Leading Republican awarded almost £28,000 shooting by soldier,; accessed 31 October 2015.
  5. IRA bosses force out godfather of terror,, 22 June 2003; accessed 31 October 2015.
  6. Events of 1995
  7. Ardoyne - The Untold Truth - Conclusion Ardoyne Commemoration Project (2002),; accessed 31 October 2015.
  8. The Crying Game,; accessed 31 October 2015.
  9. I only want justice says bomb victims' daughter,; accessed 31 October 2015.
  10. Remembering a black week in our history,, 21 October 2003.
  11. Bombing marked by school protesters,; accessed 23 October 2015.
  12. A Directory of Murals - Album 55,; accessed 31 October 2015.
  13. Shankill bomber Thomas Begley commemorated amid loyalist protest,; accessed 31 October 2015.