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Last Updated: Friday, 29 July 2005, 09:27 GMT 10:27 UK
Victim's painful journey to peace
By Noreen Erskine
BBC News website

As the IRA says it is giving up the armed campaign, BBC News talks to a woman who lost her father and sister in the Shankill Road bombing.

Beth McGrath plans to celebrate her 25th wedding anniversary next month with a trip to Prague.

Beth McGrath
Beth McGrath says bitterness does not aid the healing process

It will be a happy journey - unlike the painful one she has had to make over the past 12 years.

In 1993, an IRA bomb left in her father's fish shop on the Shankill Road in Belfast exploded during a sunny autumn afternoon.

Beth's father, John Frizell, and her younger sister, Sharon McBride, were among nine Protestants killed.

Thomas Begley, one of two IRA men who brought the bomb into the shop, also died when the building collapsed into a pile of rubble.

The IRA's announcement that it has ended its armed campaign after more than 30 years of violence has been heralded as "a step of unparalleled magnitude" by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Beth, 44, from north Belfast, is more sceptical.

I would only be hindering my growth... if I allowed myself to be bitter or enraged
Beth McGrath

"I have heard words like unprecedented and historic being used about this statement.

"But there have been other statements in the past, and then there have been compromises and other clauses put in, so I am slightly cautious.

"I think there's a lot of fine tuning needed.

"The IRA are still very adamant that their aims remain the same," she said.

During the Northern Ireland Troubles, the IRA murdered about 1,800 civilians and members of the security forces.

Mother-of-four Beth works for Wave, a cross-community organisation set up in 1991 to support victims of the violence in Northern Ireland, and is acutely aware of the ongoing suffering of many victims' families.

'Small fish'

She is unsure about the outcome of the IRA's declaration.

"It's now been 11 years since the beginning of the IRA's so-called ceasefire in 1994, and 12 years from when my dad and my sister were killed.

"I'm thinking about the parallels between the healing of the country and my healing process," she said.

Shankill Road after the bombing
Nine Protestants were killed in the blast at Frizell's fish shop

"For me, my healing will continue at my own pace.

"Statements like this won't really affect that in any great way, but I'd like to think it might help make this a better place for people in general if we can find a way to put differences aside and move forward in an active way."

Neither the contents nor the timing of the long-awaited statement surprised her.

"In the aftermath of the London bombing and events worldwide, I think people are fed up hearing about the Northern Ireland story.

"We are small fish now, very small fish. The statement is just words, and only time will tell its exact importance," she said.

'Different perspective'

Beth is also philosophical about the latest release from jail of Sean Kelly, one of the two IRA men who carried out the 1993 Shankill Road bombing.

Although given nine life sentences, he was freed early under the Good Friday Agreement in July 2000.

Beth's sister Sharon with her husband Alan - who survived the blast
The victims included Beth's sister Sharon, pictured with husband Alan

He was returned to prison in June after security information indicated he had become re-involved in terrorism, but was released again on Wednesday night, ahead of the IRA statement.

"I don't allow myself to get angry or emotionally involved about his release because if the authorities decide it's going to happen, it will," she said.

"I would only be hindering my growth and my healing process, my life and that of my children if I allowed myself to be bitter or enraged.

"If you go through a trauma, you deal with life afterwards from a different perspective."




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