Co Cavan man seeks answers about loyalist bombing which killed his 15-year-old sister in Belturbet

A Co Cavan man whose sister was murdered in a loyalist bomb attack in 1972 is calling for answers on who was behind the attack and their motives.

Anthony and O'Reilly and his wife Marie holding a photo of his sister Geraldine, who died in the 1972 loyalist bombing of Belturbet.
Anthony and O'Reilly and his wife Marie holding a photo of his sister Geraldine, who died in the 1972 loyalist bombing of Belturbet.

Geraldine O’Reilly, 15, and Paddy Stanley, 16, were killed in the no-warning car bomb in Belturbet in December 1972. 

Geraldine’s brother Anthony O’Reilly stopped his car to allow his sister out to the chip shop where she was killed.

”She is always on my mind,” he told the News Letter yesterday. “I wonder how I survived and they both died.”

Geraldine O'Reilly who was murdered aged 15 in the loyalist bomb in Belturbet, Co Cavan, December 28 1972.

This week RTE broadcast ‘Belturbet: A Bomb That Time Forgot’ which reported that loyalists used a border bridge at Aghalane to transport the bomb into the Republic. It had also been used repeatedly that year by the IRA to travel north for deadly attacks in Co Fermanagh.

RTE reported that tensions had especially risen after the IRA traversed the bridge to murder UDR member Tom Bullock and his wife, Emily as they watched TV in their Aghalane farmhouse in September. RTE claimed that a British army officer then collaborated with loyalists to blow up the bridge, in a bid to stop further the IRA attacks. It said that Cavan County Council then moved quickly to restore it - on December 24 - despite strong opposition from Fermanagh County Council and that four days later loyalists drove their bomb across the bridge to Belturbet.

Mr O’Reilly noted the documentary named one loyalist suspect from Belfast, who moved to England but has since died, and claimed that another is still living in Enniskillen.

RTE probed whether all police files north and south have been opened to the families.

Patrick Stanley who was murdered aged 16 in the loyalist bomb in Belturbet, Co Cavan, December 28 1972.

“I still think there are files in Dublin that we are not being allowed to see.” Mr O’Reilly said. “In Northern Ireland some of the files are sealed for 80 years.”

There is now little chance of anyone being brought to justice, he says. 

“But I would like to know who was involved and why they left the bomb without any warning.”

In the wake of the documentary, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he will pursue answers from authorities in NI and the UK.

But RTE reported that six separate reports had also been compiled by Gardaí. Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth said it was “utterly wrong” that the O’Reilly and Stanley families had not been granted access to the files because, 48 years on, the investigation was “deemed to be live”. She called for a “proper and full investigation”.

South East Fermanagh Foundation Director of Services Kenny Donaldson said the O’Reilly family - whom he supports - are “a decent and humble family” who merely seek accountability for events around Geraldine’s murder. He noted that Aghalane Bridge was used for both loyalist and republican murders that year.

“The heinous murder of these two innocents children needs resolution - as do the 102 republican murders in Fermanagh that year, for which there is a shocking 4.5% clearance rate,” he added.

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