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
Religion Roman Catholicism

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 nationalist Ardoyne area of north Belfast. Begley not only believed in Irish republicanism but also in republicanism.[1] In January 1993 Begley joined the Provisional IRA and was noted by his commanders for his eagerness and determination in comprehending the techniques and methods used by more senior members of his brigade.[1]

Paramilitary activities[edit]

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

Intelligence given to Begley and fellow members of his ASU stated that a meeting was scheduled to take place between senior members of various loyalist faction leaders, including several senior members of the UDA and Johnny Adair, one of the leaders of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) on 23 October 1993 in a flat above Frizzell's Fish Shop on the Shankill Road.

Three IRA volunteers from the Ardoyne area, including Begley, 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 killing him, 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. Sean 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][10]


Violence erupted in Northern Ireland in the weeks after Begley's death. The UFF 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.[11]

In 2001, loyalist and unionist residents from the Glenbryn area in Belfast 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 to Holy Cross primary school.[12]

A mural dedicated to deceased IRA volunteers, including Begley, was painted in Ardoyne Avenue, near the Begley family home.[13]

In October 2013, 20 years after the fishshop bombing, a plaque commemorating Begley was unveiled in North Belfast. [14]