Thursday, 16 December 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank Deputy Smith for raising this matter. He has championed this issue for many years to try to get to the truth of what happened. The bombing of Belturbet on 28 December 1972 was an appalling and callous act of violence that claimed the lives of two innocent young people - Geraldine O'Reilly and Patrick Stanley - and injured many others. The dreadful effects of this attack last to this day. The suffering of those who have lost what was most precious to them goes on, and the fact that the perpetrators of this atrocity have never been held accountable for their crimes can only compound the sense of loss. I extend my deepest sympathies to the bereaved and injured.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Garda authorities have previously advised that the bombing and the murders were comprehensively investigated by An Garda Síochána at the time. The Defence Forces provided expert assistance and the investigation involved close liaison with the authorities in Northern Ireland. Despite every avenue of inquiry being pursued at the time, there was insufficient evidence to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice. The investigation into the bombing and the murders of the two young people has not been closed and An Garda Síochána will pursue any new evidence or information that is made available. The Garda would, of course, work in close co-operation with the PSNI where that could advance the investigation. The Garda also liaises with the families on any developments that arise.
Following the publication of academic articles both last year and this year, which I thank the Deputy for raising, the Minister, Deputy McEntee, arranged for a copy of the articles, which concerned, inter alia, the Belturbet bombing and information on a potential suspect, to be forwarded to the Garda authorities for attention. The "RTÉ Investigates" programme which aired in December 2020 – "Belturbet, A Bomb That Time Forgot" – was also brought to their attention. The Minister, Deputy McEntee, will continue to engage with the Garda Commissioner on progress in this investigation. Most important, I appeal to anybody with any information that may be relevant to this case, even after nearly 50 years, to bring it to the attention of the Garda authorities to aid their investigation.