Scene photo from An Garda Siochana of Slowey’s chip shop where Geraldine O’Reilly (15) had been when the bomb went off.

‘We’ve never given up’

COLD CASE Team to review evidence of Belturbet Bomb

The family of Geraldine O’Reilly, one of two teenagers killed in the Belturbet bombing 50 years ago, say they’ve “never given up” hope her murderers will be brought to justice.

Anthony O'Reilly, Geraldine's brother, made the comments as a senior garda confirmed that a cold case team has been appointed to the investigation.

The Anglo-Celt can reveal that An Garda Síochána have set up an incident room at Ballyconnell Garda Station, from which members assigned to the case, will conduct a full examination of all evidence, old and new.

Ahead of the 50th anniversary of the atrocity, An Garda Síochána are also set to appeal for new leads and fresh information including a planned broadcast on RTÉ’s Crimecall.

“There's not a day goes by we don't still think of her,” says Anthony of his little sister. “It’s hard to believe she’s 50 years gone. But we’ve never given up hope something would come of it, that one day, some day there’d be justice.”

Age 15 years, Geraldine O’Reilly was inside Slowey's chip shop when the blast happened. An estimated 100lb bomb, packed into a red-Ford Escort, parked near the town's post office, exploded at 10:28pm on December 28, 1972.

Geraldine O'Reilly.

Patrick Stanley (16) from Clara, Co Offaly, also died that night. A gas delivery assistant, he was in a phone box nearby having stopped off to call his family and let them know he'd be late home.

Patrick Stanley.

Twelve more people were injured, some seriously, including Geraldine’s brother Anthony, himself just 22 years. He was waiting for his little sister to return with their supper, double-parked, just metres from where the bomb exploded.

The cars used in the bombings had been stolen from the Enniskillen area.

The vehicle used in the Belturbet attack carried at least two passengers, including a young man and a woman. It crossed an unapproved bailey bridge at Aghalane at around 9pm, and close to an hour and a half later the bomb detonated.

Open investigation

Garda Chief Superintendent for the North East, Alan McGovern, confirmed to The Anglo-Celt this week that he had assigned “investigative resources” to the Belturbet bombing case, which has at all times remained “open”.

The team assigned has been drawn from across the North-East policing region, with a senior investigative officer appointed to lead the paper review. Their task entails reassessing all initial investigative efforts, and identifying potential breakthroughs with new information uncovered since.

“This has always remained an open investigation but I’ve now assigned specific resources to examine the evidence in more detail, using more modern investigative techniques in so far as we possibly can.”

As the review progresses, it is expected that further appeals for information will be made to the public following certain lines of specific inquiry.

No one has ever been charged in connection with the Belturbet bombing, one of three similar attacks to occur that same evening, all within 50 minutes of each other.

A bomb in Clones town (10.01pm), 12 miles from Belturbet, injured two people; while another in Pettigo, Co Donegal (10.50pm) caused extensive damage to a pub wall.


While bombings elsewhere have been investigated by the Police Ombudsman in the North, the Dublin and Belturbet bombings were never accepted. This remains a significant point of contention for victims and their families, particularly given serious allegations of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and the British army. Asked if the scope of the new Belturbet probe will be expanded to incorporate the two other incidents in Clones and Pettigo, Chief Supt McGovern said he could not comment for “operational reasons”.

He also would not be drawn on whether engagement with PSNI would be necessary as part of the investigation, only to state: “From my experience, there has always been good collaboration between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI where co-operation is necessary.”

Chief Supt McGovern added: “My thoughts, and those of An Garda Síochána, are as always with the victims and their families. We acknowledge there many are still waiting for answers, and if we can do anything to progress such matters we will.”

The regional garda chief concluded by appealing to the public for any new information “no matter how small or insignificant you might think it might be, even all these years on” to share it with gardaí.

“Something small might be all that’s needed to bring the investigation in a certain direction. We will be making more detailed appeals for information as the investigation develops,” said Chief Supt McGovern.

‘We live in hope’

For the family of Geraldine O’Reilly and Patrick Stanley, the years tick by but the hurt remains as real as if it were “yesterday”.

Anthony says a lot of people “still carry scars” from that fateful night.

Anthony and wife Marie will, and they’ve always done, visit the iconic bronze memorial erected by artist Mel French in 2007 to commemorate the bombing on December 28. After, they’ll visit Geraldine's graveside. Poignantly, the date marks the feast day of The Holy Innocents.

“It’s the same as yesterday. You go through it nearly every day. I’ve always talked to people and there’s lots of information out there now that wasn’t there before. I’ve heard about people there and who seen things that maybe never was recorded. Hopefully, with the anniversary approaching, and the bombing back in the news, it’ll jog a few memories. A lot of people maybe seen something back then and never thought it important. We live in hope.”