Memorial planned for teenage bomb victims

A memorial for two teenage victims of a loyalist car bomb is to be built in a small Cavan town, it emerged today.

Geraldine O’Reilly, 14, and Patrick Stanley, 16 were killed instantly when the no-warning car bomb exploded in Belturbet on December 28, 1972.

The Remembrance Commission, which is funding the construction of the memorial with Cavan County Council, said the death of the two teenagers had deeply affected their families.

“As the years have passed there has been no dilution of the grief they have endured and Christmas and the New Year are times of sadness for them and a constant reminder of their loss,” said a spokesman.

Patrick Stanley, from Clara, County Offaly, was working with a gas delivery lorry and was due to leave Belturbet that day. But he had to stay overnight due to bad weather conditions and he was calling his family from a phone box to tell them this when the car bomb went off.

He played as a goalkeeper in soccer, gaelic football and hurling and had been nominated for an under-21 GAA All-Star award before he died.

Geraldine O’Reilly lived two miles outside Belturbet and was travelling to the town to get a bag of chips at the time of the bomb. She was a keen Irish dancer and her mother left her dancing costume and school uniform hanging on her bedroom door for years afterwards.

The new memorial in Belturbet will show the teenagers sitting back to back on a pile of books, with Patrick holding a football and Geraldine a pair of dancing shoes.

It will be designed by the artist, Mel French.

“The memorial will be placed in a central location in the town so that it will serve as a reminder to the community and visitors to Belturbet of the two young people who lost their lives on that awful evening in 1972,” said the Remembrance Commission spokesman.

The Belturbet bombing was one of several investigated on by Judge Henry Barron, who found that loyalists were the most likely culprits. However, no-one was ever charged in connection with the bombing.

The families of Geraldine O’Reilly and Patrick Stanley both gave moving evidence about the effect of the bombing to the Oireachtas sub-committee on Justice in January last year.

His sister Gretta Farrell told how her parents had learnt about the bombing through a television newsflash.

“As it was Christmas, they were all up quite late at home. Mam and dad said to them, “We will say the Rosary now, before we go to bed, for those two people.”

After learning that it was his son involved, her father mounted a 30-year campaign to get justice without success.

“Over the years he has written to every Minister for Justice but has never received any help or any indication of why it happened. One Minister for Justice told him to forget it, that it had happened a long time ago and to move on,” said Mrs Farrell.

The sister of Geraldine O’Reilly, Frances McCann, told the committee how her family had never been able to enjoy Christmas since the December 28 bombing.

“Geraldine was a very happy young girl of 15. Occasionally she would be allowed to go to a dance with a sister or a couple of friends. She had lovely friends and was very happy at school and had everything to live for.”

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