Gardaí including divers from the Garda Water Unit are at Aghalane near Belturbet this morning conducting a search.

Garda divers search Erne river near Belturbet

COLD CASE Team reviewing evidence of Belturbet Bomb

A major search operation is underway this morning near Belturbet with garda divers in the water close to Aghalane Bridge.

The Anglo-Celt understands it's part of the cold case investigation into the Belturbet bombing, which claimed the lives of two teenagers 50 years ago.

The Garda Press Office has been contacted this morning for comment.

Local girl Geraldine O'Reilly (15) and Patrick Stanley (16) from Clara, Co Offaly, lost their lives in the blast on December 28, 1972.

Late last year, An Garda Síochána set up an incident room at Ballyconnell Garda Station, from which members assigned to the case, are conducting a full examination of all evidence, old and new.

In recent months, gardaí also made an appeal for information on RTÉ’s Crimecall.

The family of Geraldine O’Reilly told the Celt previously that they’ve “never given up” hope her murderers will be brought to justice.

Anthony O'Reilly, Geraldine's brother, said: “There's not a day goes by we don't still think of her.

“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.

Geraldine O'Reilly.

Patrick Stanley (16) 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 at the time. 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 late last year 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.”

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.

“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.”