Page last updated at 04:34 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

'For a long time I was just so angry'

By Chris Summers
BBC News

Sharon McBride, the mother of a two-year-old girl, was one of more than 3,600 people killed during the Troubles. On Wednesday the Eames Bradley Report will include plans for dealing with the legacy of these deaths.

It has been a long journey for Alan McBride.

Aftermath of the Shankill bombing
The shop was in rubble and I knew Sharon was not coming back
Alan McBride

His wife, Sharon, was one of 10 people who died when an IRA bomb went off in her father's fish shop in the heart of the loyalist Shankill Road in October 1993.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was criticised for carrying the coffin of one of the bombers, Thomas Begley, who died when the device went off prematurely.

Mr McBride, who was left to bring up their two-year-old daughter by himself, says: "For a while I was very angry. Initially my anger was directed at the people who planted the bomb. I used to write letters to Gerry Adams and I tried to confront him about what had happened to my wife.

"He was one of the guys who carried the coffin of the person who murdered my wife and in doing that he showed solidarity with that organisation and for a long, long time I was affected by that.

"I wanted to say that was not right. I wrote articles and was on the news and I was just so angry. I sent photographs of her to him on her birthday, on anniversaries and at Christmas.

"I wanted him to connect with the person, a mother, a daughter, a wife. It's often easy to dismiss 3,500 who died in the Troubles - but when you think of them as people it's not so easy to dismiss."

Sharon McBride
Sharon McBride, pictured on her wedding day, had been helping her father in his shop

But Mr McBride says his outlook has changed: "I have come to a place in my life where it's not just about the people who planted the bombs any more but the society that gave rise to it.

"The two people who killed my wife were 19 and grew up in the [Catholic] Ardoyne. I grew up in the [Protestant] Westland knowing only that Catholics were people you threw stones at."

He says he had an epiphany several years ago when he went to Edinburgh to film a television programme.

"I was with a former IRA man and a former UVF man and one night we went out for a drink. We started talking. The republican touched me and said, 'What happened that day was wrong'.

"He didn't try to justify it. Adams had apologised, but then he always said there was nobody working harder for peace than Sinn Fein.

Gerry Adams carried the coffin of IRA bomber Thomas Begley
Gerry Adams carried the coffin of IRA bomber Thomas Begley

"This IRA man told me about growing up in the New Lodge [a Catholic district in west Belfast]. The British army wrecked his house and his friends were killed.

"I had relatives who served in the UDA. I began to realise that all of us had some share of responsibility for what had happened," he says.

"What happened to Sharon was evil and wrong, but it was symptomatic of the society that we all lived in at the time and I don't think we can just wash our hands of that. Sectarianism was endemic in our society."

Peace and reconciliation

Nowadays Mr McBride is employed by Wave, one of the main charities in Northern Ireland helping Troubles victims and working on peace and reconciliation.

But he still vividly remembers the day of the Shankill bombing and is still grieving for his wife.

"I remember it was a Saturday and I took Sharon to the shop and then because it was such a lovely day I decided to take my daughter out for a ride on the back of my bicycle. Someone told me a bomb had gone off on the Shankill.

"I wasn't that worried because that sort of thing happened quite a lot. But when I turned in from Berlin Street onto the Shankill the shop was in rubble and I knew Sharon was not coming back."

He had to wait for several hours in hospital to find out about his wife, an experience he has likened to the "waiting room of Hell".

Alan McBride at Shankill Memorial
Alan McBride looks at the memorial to his wife and the other victims

After the bombing the IRA said they had been targeting a meeting of the UDA above the shop and had planned to give a warning, but the bomb had gone off prematurely.

Mr McBride says it does not matter to him whether or not the UDA were in the building, nothing justified killing his wife.

"I still go to her grave. When I first went there I used to write letters, love letters really to tell her how much I loved her," he says.

Their daughter is now 17 and Mr McBride is clearly very protective of her. He declines to speak about how she has been affected by her mother's death.

But he is troubled by suggestions the Eames Bradley Report will suggest the families of all Troubles victims will receive 12,000, effectively putting him on a level footing with the family of the bomber who killed his wife and eight other people.

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