Belturbet bombing victims remembered 40-years on

Story by Seamus Enright

Monday, 31st December, 2012 4:03pm

Belturbet bombing victims remembered 40-years on

The scene of devastation which greeted the people of Belturbet town following the explosion of a car bomb there back in 1972. Members of the army guard the Main Street where the bomb went off. In the left of the background is Slowey's chip shop where local teenager Geraldine O'Reilly was t

There is "a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace". These were the words spoken at the remembrance ceremony held to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Belturbet bombings on Sunday last.

Killing two, 15-year-old local girl Geraldine O'Reilly and 16-year-old Patrick Stanley from Clara, Offaly, injuring many others and causing destruction on a mass scale; the atrocity was caused by a Loyalist car bomb, which went off on Thursday night, 10.30pm, on December 28, 1972.

Attended by members of the families of both victims, more than 100 local people, members of the local Council executive and Town Council and conducted by Mgr Michael Cooke and Rev Tanya Woods, the wreath laying service took place at the monument erected in memory of the victims at the spot where the bomb blast occurred four decades ago.

On that fateful day, a bomb had previously exploded in a blue Morris 1100 car on Fermanagh Street, Clones, at 10.01pm, seriously injuring two men. A third bomb exploded outside the licensed premises of Hugh Britton at Mullnagoad, near Pettigo, Donegal. No one was injured, though the pub was extensively damaged.

The cars used in Clones and Belturbet had both been stolen in Enniskillen earlier that day and the locations of all three bombs were in a radius of 20 miles from Enniskillen, and all in towns south of the Border.

Reports at the time describe damage to property caused by the 100lb-bomb, planted in a Red 1969 Ford Escort, to be estimated at £200,000. The car was driven across the Border and to the town through the unmanned Aghalane crossing at 9pm, an hour and a half before the blast. Twenty-three houses in Butler Street were damaged by the explosion, 13 houses in The Diamond and 18 houses in Bridge Street, with others less seriously damaged on Holborn Hill, The Lawn and at Banker's Lane.

Fourteen cars were also damaged, while pieces of the bomb car were recovered from a 100-yard radius of the blast site.

Patrick Stanley, a helper on a bottle gas container lorry, had been making a phone call in a nearby kiosk when the bomb went off. Geraldine O'Reilly, who was on her Christmas holidays from school, was across the road in Slowey's chip shop waiting to be served when the bomb exploded, where she suffered head injuries from flying shrapnel.

Geraldine's brother, Anthony, had been waiting for her outside in the car when the bomb went off. His car was parked a mere 10-feet from the blast site. From a family of eight, Geraldine being the youngest, Anthony remembers her as following him everywhere. "We were very close. When it went off, to tell you the truth I thought I had fallen asleep. I heard a bang, I thought I was dreaming and fell out onto the footpath. I was dazed, I didn't know what had happened, I went down the street, I didn't know which way was which. It was then I realised that Geraldine was in the chipper. I started to call for her and someone came and took me then. Later that evening, I had to go an identify Geraldine's body in the hospital, I identified her by her clothes.

"The hurt of what happened still hasn't gone away, it never will. Our mother and father couldn't ever nearly talk about it, it was only after they died did anyone really begin to talk about it really, get something done. The Justice for the Forgotten have done a lot for us, a lot for the memory of Geraldine and Patrick. But you do think what they could have grown up to be, would Geraldine have had her own family now, it's just so sad they have to be remembered in this way."

See this week's Anglo-Celt newspaper for full coverage of the commemoration and rememberance of the Belturbet bombing forty-years on

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