The bomb car embedded in an adjoining car in Belturbet in December 1972.

Belturbet bombing investigation to continue

bomb Next year marks 50th anniversary of blast

The Justice Minister is to continue to engage with the Gardaí on the investigation into the Belturbet bombing that killed two teenagers, 49 years ago.

Youngsters Geraldine O’Reilly (15) from Belturbet and Patrick Stanley (16) from Co Offaly were killed in the explosion on December 28, 1972. Eight others were injured.

Despite an investigation at the time, no one has ever been charged in relation to the attack. No group claimed responsibility but it’s believed to be the work of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

There have been numerous calls since the attack for a reopening of the investigation, particularly in recent years as new information comes to light.

Cavan Monaghan TD, Brendan Smith (FF), raised the issue on the floor of the Dáil again this month, calling for a stepping up in the ongoing work: “Not alone has nobody been brought to justice, but the families have never got the truth about the perpetrators of this dastardly act. I repeat that I believe that there has not been an adequate or comprehensive investigation by the authorities in Northern Ireland into this bombing.”

He has been vocal in his calls for action, particularly as next year marks 50 years since the bombing. Information gathered by Professor Edward Burke of the University of Nottingham was placed on the record of the Dáil last year by Deputy Smith in a bid to move the investigation forward.

Professor Burke’s research concluded that a red Ford Escort with at least two passengers, believed to be a man and a woman, crossed the border at Aghalane and drove to Belturbet where the car exploded an hour and a half later. Minister of State at the Department of Justice James Browne responded to Deputy Smith saying the Justice Minister will continue to work with the Gardaí on the investigation:

“The Minister, Deputy McEntee, will continue to engage with the Garda Commissioner on progress in this investigation. Most importantly, I appeal to anybody with any information that may be relevant to this case, even after nearly 50 years, to bring it to the attention of the Garda authorities to aid their investigation.”

Deputy Smith has consistently called for greater cooperation from security services in Northern Ireland and Britain as he says the bomb originated in County Fermanagh.

“We cannot deal with the past without getting full cooperation from all relevant security agencies. I know many families who have lost loved ones, including the O'Reilly and Stanley families, who have not got the truth, but those families have acted over the decades with such grace and dignity. They want to get the truth and they fully realise that getting prosecutions will not be easy. Unfortunately, time is passing.”

Minister Browne said Gardaí are willing to liaise with their counterparts north of the border: “The investigation into the bombing and the murders of the two young people has not been closed and An Garda Síochána will pursue any new evidence or information that is made available. The Garda would, of course, work in close co-operation with the PSNI where that could advance the investigation. The Garda also liaises with the families on any developments that arise.”