Dáil debates

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Belturbet Bombing

4:05 pm

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I appreciate the Ceann Comhairle selecting this important issue for discussion here this evening.

We are now approaching the 49th anniversary of the bombing in Belturbet, County Cavan, that caused the deaths of two young innocent teenagers, Geraldine O'Reilly from Belturbet and Patrick Stanley from Clara, County Offaly. On many occasions, I have raised the issue of this heinous crime, through Dáil questions, debates in this House, at Oireachtas committees and directly with the British authorities. Sadly, nobody has ever been brought to justice for these murders and the injuries inflicted on so many others on that tragic night of 28 December 1972. Not alone has nobody been brought to justice, but the families have never got the truth about the perpetrators of this dastardly act.

I repeat that I believe that there has not been an adequate or comprehensive investigation by the authorities in Northern Ireland into this bombing. I put on the record of this House, in September 2020, information that had come directly to me courtesy of the good work of Professor Edward Burke of the University of Nottingham. Professor Burke's detailed report on the activities of loyalist paramilitaries, particularly in the Cavan-Monaghan area, shows very clearly that there was collusion between some British state forces and loyalist paramilitaries in a series of attacks in Cavan and Monaghan.

One of the subheadings in Professor Burke's detailed article is: "Blowing up Belturbet: Loyalist operations in County Cavan". That article includes the following:

At approximately 9:00 p.m. on the night of December 28, a red ford escort with at least two passengers, a young man and a woman, crossed the bailey bridge at Aghalane and made its way to the nearby town of Belturbet in County Cavan. An hour and a half later, the same car exploded on Main Street, Belturbet, killing two teenagers, Geraldine O’Reilly (15) and Paddy Stanley (16). Twelve more people were injured, some seriously, including Geraldine O’Reilly’s brother.

At my request, the Taoiseach has raised this very important issue with the British Government on the need to address our ongoing request for a full and comprehensive investigation. We need answers and the very least the O'Reilly and Stanley families deserve is the truth having suffered decades of grief for the loss of their loved ones. Almost a half-century has passed since that fatal night in Belturbet. We must never forget that it is never too late to get the truth.

The very well researched and very well written book by Mr. Joe Duffy of RTÉ and Ms Freya McClements of The Irish Times, "Children of the Troubles: The Untold Story of the Children Killed in the Northern Ireland Conflict", refers to the Belturbet tragedy as follows:

Geraldine was one of two children killed in the explosion; the other, Patrick Stanley, had been calling his mother from a phone box when the bomb went off.

Nobody has ever been convicted of the atrocity but according to Lost Lives, 'reliable loyalist sources' attribute the bombings to the UVF. ... The bomb killed two people, both children; Paddy and 15-year-old Geraldine O'Reilly are now remembered with a memorial in Belturbet.

That bomb, with such devastating consequences, originated in our neighbouring county of Fermanagh. We talk in macro-terms about legacy issues and dealing with the past but what we are talking about here is life and death.

We cannot deal with the past without getting full co-operation from all relevant security agencies. I know many families who have lost loved ones, including the O'Reilly and Stanley families, who have not got the truth, but those families have acted over the decades with such grace and dignity. They want to get the truth and they fully realise that getting prosecutions will not be easy. Unfortunately, time is passing.


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