Sean Kelly (Irish republican)

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Sean Kelly, (born c. 1972) is a former Irish republican volunteer in the Belfast Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), who was a member of the active service unit which carried out the Shankill Road bombing in 1993.

Shankill Road bomb[edit]

Kelly was convicted for his part in planting a bomb on the Shankill Road, North Belfast, Northern Ireland, intending to kill Johnny Adair and senior members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). The bomb exploded prematurely, killing nine Protestant civilians. An 11-second fuse was meant to detonate the bomb after they had shouted a warning. Thomas Begley, a fellow volunteer in the Belfast Brigade, was killed in the botched attack, which left Kelly injured; he lost an eye and has limited use of his left arm.[1]

Kelly was arrested after being picked up by rescuers searching for survivors in the wreckage. Kelly was sentenced to nine terms of life imprisonment at his trial in January 1995.[2]

The judge at his trial, Lord Justice McDermott, said: "This wanton slaughter of so many innocent people must rank as one of the most outrageous atrocities endured by the people of this province in the last quarter of a century."[3]

Release after the Good Friday Agreement[edit]

Kelly served seven years of his life sentence and was released in July 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.[4] During the Holy Cross dispute, Kelly was reported by Lt. Col. Tim Collins to be present during republican violence in Ardoyne.[5]

Kelly was returned to prison on 18 June 2005 when his early release was suspended amid allegations that he had been involved in rioting. Sinn Féin claimed he was trying to calm tensions. Peter Hain, Northern Ireland Secretary, said that he had directed the arrest and return to prison of Sean Kelly on the basis of ‘security information’ available to him. He said he was satisfied that Sean Kelly "had become re-involved in terrorism".[6] He was re-released on 28 July later the same year. The next day the IRA ordered an end to its armed campaign.[7]

Arrest after shooting incident[edit]

In February 2013, Kelly was arrested in connection with a shooting incident which resulted in an 18-year-old male requiring emergency hospital treatment, after being shot in both legs, in what was described was a paramilitary-style attack. The PSNI later said that following inquiries, it was no longer being treated as such, but rather as a shooting. First minister Peter Robinson said the arrest could have "grave consequences" for the political process and called for a meeting with PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott, to find out how police are able to say that the shooting is not linked to paramilitaries and also to establish the background of the case.[8]


  1. ^ Mullin, John (2000-08-05). "Freed Shankill bomber regrets 'accident'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-02-27.
  2. ^ McKittrick, David (1995-01-28). "IRA bomber jailed for shop atrocity". The Independent. Retrieved 2007-02-27.
  3. ^ Connolly, Maeve (2003-10-21). "Remembering a black week in our history". The Irish News. Retrieved 2007-02-27.
  4. ^ Hoge, Warren (2000-07-25). "Guerrilla who killed 3 mourners released as part of N. Ireland pact". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2007-02-27.
  5. ^ Collins, Tim (2006). Rules of Engagement. London: Review. pp. 67–73. ISBN 978-0-7553-1375-4. OCLC 62796448.
  6. ^ McDonald, Henry (2005-06-19). "Shankill bomber back in prison". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-02-27.
  7. ^ Frankel, Glenn (2005-07-29). "IRA Says It Will Abandon Violence". The Washington Post. p. A1. Retrieved 2007-02-27.
  8. ^ "Sean Kelly released unconditionally". BBC News. Retrieved 2013-09-29.