The Shankill Road (from Irish: Seanchill, meaning "old church") is one of the main roads leading through west Belfast, the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland. It runs through the working-class, predominantly loyalist, area known as the Shankill.
During the Troubles, the Shankill was a centre for loyalist paramilitarism. The modern Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) had its genesis on the Shankill and its first attack occurred on the road on 7 May 1966 when a group of UVF men led by Gusty Spence petrol bombed a Catholic-owned pub. Fire also engulfed the house next door, killing the elderly Protestant widow, Matilda Gould (77), who lived there. This was followed on 27 May by the murder of John Scullion (28), a Catholic, as he walked home from a pub. On 26 June a Catholic civilian, Peter Ward (18), a native of the Republic of Ireland, was killed and two others wounded as they left a pub on the Shankill's Malvern Street. Shortly after this attack, Spence and three others were arrested and later convicted. The UVF would continue to be active on the Shankill throughout the Troubles, most notoriously with the Shankill Butchers led by Lenny Murphy, as well as the likes of William Marchant and Frankie Curry, the latter a member of the Red Hand Commando.
The Greater Shankill and its residents were also subjected to a number of bombings and shootings by Irish republican paramilitary forces. During 1971 two pub bombings took place on the Shankill, one in May at the Mountainview Tavern at which several people were injured and a second at the Four Step Inn in September which resulted in two deaths. A further bomb exploded at the Balmoral Furnishing Company on 11 December that same year, resulting in four deaths, including two infants. Another pub attack followed on 13 August 1975 when the IRA opened fire on patrons outside the Bayardo Bar and then left a bomb inside the crowded bar area, killing four civilians and one UVF member. Brendan McFarlane was given a life sentence for his part in the attack.
The Shankill Road bombing occurred on 23 October 1993. A bomb exploded in Frizzell's Fish Shop, below the UDA's Shankill headquarters. The bomb exploded prematurely as it was being planted. Nine people were killed in addition to one of the bombers, Thomas Begley. None of the loyalist paramilitaries targeted were hurt, as they had postponed a planned meeting. Begley's accomplice, Sean Kelly, survived and was imprisoned.