Susan Stanley speaks at the memorial for her brother Patrick Stanley & Geraldine O’Reilly. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Stanleys thankful for support

The poem, read by Susan Stanley at the 50th anniversary of the Belturbet bombing, was written on another of those “sleepless nights” that so often haunt her. Her brother ‘Paddy’ was on her mind.

Susan wasn’t born when her brother died - her mum being six months’ pregnant when the bomb, which killed Paddy, exploded on December 28, 1972. She grew up hearing “stories”, assurances of just “how kind and how good” he was.

The Stanley family say the renewed investigation into the bombing and the murders of their brother Patrick (16) and local girl Geraldine Reilly (15) has been “a relief”.

While 1972 represented the height of the conflict in Northern Ireland, to a small town in Offaly, “those Troubles seemed a million miles away”.

Distance, and the fact that until recently no garda had ever visited their home, meant the Stanleys always felt a certain “detachment”, alone in their grief. “It devastated the whole town [of Clara], because our parents were well loved, they still are, and Paddy was well loved as well... But we did feel alone, definitely.”

They’re “thankful” for the support of friends and family, and from the communities in Clara and Belturbet.

Patrick’s mother did not attend her son’s funeral. She instead stayed at home kept company by her sister Maebh.

Patrick’s father Joe identified his son’s body, his brother Noel travelling for support.

Susan adds that the “first time” her mother ever spoke about Paddy’s death to her was in 1990. “She told me about it that night. How she felt when she heard the news. She said she could feel me. I just curled up in a ball inside her and that’s where I stayed. It was very tough on them, very tough on my brothers and sisters. He was the oldest, and they all looked up to him.” Another sister Gretta remembers Patrick bringing her on her first communion up to their granny’s house: “He was brilliant. He had this brilliant blue bike and he sat me on the crossbar and cycled me...what might’ve been two miles away and with a horrible hill. He pedalled the whole way up it. On Fridays we’d get pocket money and he’d bring us to [Percy’s], a little shop in a house, to pick out biscuits. But that was Paddy, always looking out for us. He was only a child himself.”

Our Little Brown Box


Locked away with all our treasure,In the day we sneak in,

One looking out, we can’t get caught.

What will happen when it’s opened?

What secret treasure is held under lock and key?

It’s where we found all the happiness went.

Taken away, without a smile or goodbye.

We thought we had all the time in the world.

Our brown box told us something different.

One night, far from the coal fire,

All alone in the rain,

Taken away without a kiss or touch.

Letters, cards, newspapers.

We read a story, no lips could speak for fear of anger, sadness, loss.

We cried, we wondered, we missed,

We discovered why our mammy and daddy were lost and sad.

So much gone, but we had to carry on.

We sang, we laughed, we fought, we cried,

All wrapped up in the arms of the one taken away,

Without a smile, a goodbye, a kiss, a touch.

A small brown box that holds so much.’