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Last Updated: Monday, 7 August 2006, 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK
Bomber given dinner party invite
Sean Kelly
Sean Kelly attended a cross-community function
The presence of IRA bomber Sean Kelly at a cross-community dinner party has drawn a mixed reaction.

Two people walked out of the function at Belfast Castle on Sunday when they realised he was present.

Kelly served just under eight years for planting a bomb which killed nine people in a Shankill Road fish shop.

However, Alan McBride, whose wife and father-in-law were killed in the explosion, said the cross-community meetings should continue.

The invitation-only dinner was organised as part of the three-day Greater New Lodge Community Festival

Sean Kelly, who was released after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, was among guests invited to the function which featured former Irish prime minister Albert Reynolds as an after-dinner speaker.

The evening was billed as a Celebration of Culture and Creating a Language of Hope.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, Alan McBride said it was unfortunate that the guests from the Shankill area had not been made aware that Sean Kelly would be present so that they could have decided whether or not to attend.

Alan McBride
Alan McBride's wife and father-in-law died in the attack

Mr McBride said he had just returned from holiday and had not been at the function.

"It would have been very difficult for me, and I am widely acknowledged as being some way down the road in my own healing process.

"I probably would not have gone. On a personal note, I am not ready yet to meet the person who murdered my wife.

However, Mr McBride said he would encourage organiser Irene Sherry to continue arranging cross-community meetings.

"I think these dialogues are very, very important but if there is not transparency in them, in other words if people are not told who is likely to turn up, it sometimes can have the opposite effect," he said.

Ms Sherry, said she had given invitations to people from both sides of the community.

Guest speakers and panellists at the three-day festival included PUP leader David Ervine, Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly and Alliance Party leader David Ford.

Hain defends Kelly jail release
28 Jul 05 |  Northern Ireland
Shankill bomber freed from prison
27 Jul 05 |  Northern Ireland

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