Calls for investigation into 1972 Belturbet car bombing
Calls for investigation into 1972 Belturbet car bombing


There have been calls for the Dublin government to hold a proper investigation into the Belturbet car bombing which claimed two lives of two teenagers 45 years ago this week.

On December 28th 1972, a car bomb exploded in the County Cavan town killing local girl, 15-year-old Geraldine O’Reilly, and 16-year-old Paddy Stanley from Clara in County Offaly.

Geraldine O’Reilly lived two miles outside Belturbet and was travelling to the town to get a bag of chips at the time of the bomb. She was a keen Irish dancer and her mother left her dancing costume and school uniform hanging on her bedroom door for years afterwards.

In a recent account of those events, Geraldine’s brother Anthony O’Reilly said: “Geraldine was only 16 and was the youngest of eight of us when it happened.

“I was giving her a lift into town to get a bag of chips. I was only 21 and we were good pals. We were talking and laughing all the way into town.

“I stopped at the chipper, she got out and I double parked waiting for her. It was the last time I was ever to see her. The next few minutes would change my life forever.”

Earlier that evening a red Ford Escort stolen in Enniskillen carried the 100lb bomb into the town. Driven by three men it was parked outside a pharmacy.

Anthony added: “Geraldine was about five minutes in there and she was chatting and laughing. The next thing I knew there was an explosion.

“I heard nothing because I just blacked out. My car was parked just beside where the bomb was.

“I opened my eyes and there were cars in front of me on fire. My car was in bits as well. I sort of fell out on the footpath and made my way down the street. Then I remembered that Geraldine was in the chipper.

“To this day I distinctly remember how I thought I was dreaming. I was walking around seeing all this stuff and knowing I had to find Geraldine but at the same time was convinced I was asleep and dreaming.

“Everything was blown off. I went right up and said that my sister was in there but someone seemed to pull me back and say it was too dangerous to go in.

“Geraldine died instantly. She received a massive blow to the head with a piece of debris.

“In a way that gave us comfort that she didn’t suffer for long.”

Tradesman Paddy Stanley, the oldest in a family of 10, had walked into the phonebox in Belturbet to ring his mother. The 16-year-old gas worker was just about to be put through by the operator when the bomb went off.

Mother Theresa was pregnant with her youngest daughter Susan when she heard the news.

“I never could accept really that it could have happened. And not being there to take him in my arms and to hug him.

“A man told me that he prayed over him and that gave me a bit of relief. When the priest told me that Paddy had died I could feel Susan rolling up in a ball inside me and she stayed that way until I was brought to the hospital.”

On the same evening as the Belturbet attack, bombs exploded near Pettigo, County Donegal and Clones, County Monaghan, though no-one was killed. The families have continued to press for an inquiry into the bombings.

No one has ever been charged, despite the names of the loyalists involved being well known locally. Calls for a full investigation to access police documents on both sides of the border have always been refused.

“It is now 45 years since that desperate act of brutality was carried out ending the lives of 2 young innocent people,” said local Fianna Fail TD Brendan Smith this week.

“The fact that nobody has been brought to justice for these heinous crimes adds to the terrible suffering and grief that the families continue to endure,” he said.

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