At 10.28pm on Thursday 28th December 1972 the second in a series of three co-ordinated bombs exploded in a red Ford Escort car at Main Street, Belturbet, Co, Cavan. Two young teenagers, Gerladine O’Reilly, aged 15 and Paddy Stanley, aged 16, lost their lives. Eight others were seriously injured.
A bomb had previously exploded in a blue Morris 1100 car on Fermanagh Street, Clones, Co. Monaghan at 10.01pm seriously injuring two men. A third bomb exploded outside the licensed premises of Hugh Britton at Mullnagoad, near Pettigo, Co. Donegal, it had been left near the gable wall. No one was injured but the pub was extensively damaged.
The cars used in Clones and Belturbet had been stolen in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, earlier that evening and the locations of all three bombs were in a radius of 20 miles ofEnniskillen.
Geraldine O’Reilly, who was on her Christmas holidays from school, had got a lift into Belturbet in her brother’s car to buy chips. The explosion occured while she was in the shop, waiting to be served. She sustained massive head injuries from flying shrapnel and died instantly while her brother, Anthony, who was parked outside, was seriously injured.
Paddy Stanley was also on his Christmas holidays from school in Clara, Co. Offaly. He had taken a holiday job as a helper on a Calor gas delivery lorry. While making a delivery in Belturbet there was a problem with the lorry and the driver decided they should stay in Belturbet overnight. When the bomb exploded, Paddy was in the public phone kiosk on Main Street, trying to telephone his parents to tell them he would not be home. He suffered massive head injuries and was killed instantly.
The Criminal Investigation
The Ford Escort car that exploded in Main Street had been stopped at a Garda checkpoint at Aghalane Customs Post on the border. The driver of the car failed to produce his driving license but was allowed to proceed because he gave a local address near Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh. Enquiries subsequently found that there was no one of that name living at the address given.
Within a few days, Chief Superintendent J.P. McMahon, from Monaghan, had been informed by the RUC that the leading suspect was Robert Bridge of Lisbellaw, Co. Fermanagh. A Superintendent at Ballyconnell Garda station received intelligence from an unkown source which also named Bridge along with two others. However, no request appears to have been made by the Gardai to have Bridge or the others questioned. Bridge was arrested by the RUC in June 1975 and charged with the murder of Patrick O’Reilly in County Fermanagh the previous month. It was not until 11th December 1975, six months after his arrest, that Gardai wrote to the RUC requesting that Bridge be questioned in relation to the Belturbet bombing. There is no record of the result of this request. No one has ever been arrested or charged with this atrocity.
Photo: Monument to Geraldine O’Reilly and Paddy Stanley, killed in a car bomb explosion at The Diamond, Belturbet, Co Cavan on 28th December 1972.