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Garda chief takes over Belturbet bomb inquiry

Tuesday, 31st December, 2013 3:17pm

Story by Seamus Enright
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Garda chief takes over Belturbet bomb inquiry

Photo: Seamus Enright.

Garda chief takes over Belturbet bomb inquiry

Photo: Seamus Enright.

Seamus Enright

A year after renewed garda resources were promised in pursuing the loyalist paramilitaries behind the Belturbet bombing of 1972, the investigation has received fresh impetus by being taken over by Chief Superintendent for the Cavan and Monaghan Division, James Sheridan.
Following the marking of the 40th anniversary of the atrocity last year, gardaí revealed then Superintendent of Ballyconnell Station, Sean Farrell would be assigned to lead a team in continuing the ‘open’ investigation into the bombing. However, with the downgrade of Ballyconnell Station and subsequent transfer of Supt Farrell to Kells, gardaí have been quick to fill any possible void, appointing Chief Supt Sheridan to head any futher investigation on the matter.
The Belturbet bombing occurred when a loyalist car bomb went off at 10.30pm on Thursday, December 28, 1972. It claimed the lives of 15-year-old local girl Geraldine O’Reilly and 16-year-old Patrick Stanley from Clara, Offaly.

Garda Chief meets families
The Anglo-Celt understands that the garda chief has met with representatives from both the Stanley and O’Reilly families in recent months. Enquiries are still ongoing and the families are being kept informed of progress.
“For operational reasons, no further information can be disclosed at this stage”, a garda statement said.
Last year the families of the two dead teenagers gathered alongside local people in Belturbet, members of the local councils and executive in attending a wreath laying service to commemorate the victims and mark the horrific event.
Two other bombings also occurred that same day as the Belturbet bombing, though without loss of life, on Fermanagh Street, Clones, Co Monaghan, and outside the licensed premises of Hugh Britton at Mullnagoad, near Pettigo, Co Donegal.

New Investigations
Meanwhile, the ongoing fight for justice for the victims of the conflict in the North received a significant boost earlier this year when the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire agreed to investigate complaints from 24 families over how the RUC inquired into more than 70 loyalist killings.

The investigations relate to claims in the recently published book by Anne Cadwallader, ‘Lethal Allies’, that between 1972 and 1976, more than 120 people were killed by loyalist paramilitaries, many allegedly working in collusion with the RUC and Ulster Defence Regiment. 

A number of these complaints refer to multiple killings and include the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, in which 33 people were killed, as well as the 1975 Miami Showband gun-and-bomb attack in which three members of the band were killed.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has previously stated that every avenue of enquiry was pursued at the time of the Belturbet bombing attack, and there was however “no evidence to allow the perpetrators of this atrocity to be brought before the courts.”

Justice for the Forgotten
A complaint by the Justice for the Forgotten organisation in respect of the Dundalk bombing which took place in the run up to Christmas, 1975 was submitted last week. Margaret Irwin of Justice for the Forgotten, says that subject to agreement from the victims’ families, she intends to prepare and submit a similar complaint on the Belturbet bombing in the New Year.
“I will be doing the same for Castleblayney, Dublin 1972 and 1973,” she told the Celt.

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