Loyalist suspect in Co Cavan bombing that killed two kids says ‘I’m no child killer’
Enniskillen man Robert Bridge was convicted of the sectarian murder of Catholic road worker Patrick O’Reilly
The prime suspect in a border bombing which killed two children 50 years ago has denied any involvement in the atrocity and called on those responsible to come clean.
Geraldine O’Reilly (15) and Patrick Stanley (16) were killed in the blast in Belturbet, Co Cavan which was one of a series of loyalist bombs planted along the border on December 28, 1972.
Nobody has ever been charged over their deaths or the injuries sustained by others.
A 2004 report by former Irish high court judge Mr Justice Henry Barron named Enniskillen loyalist Robert Bridge, who was later convicted of a sectarian murder, as the lead suspect.
On the 50th anniversary of the bombing last month, Geraldine’s brother Anthony O’Reilly implored those responsible to come forward and do the right thing.
When approached and asked if he’d like to apologise to the families of the victims, Bridge said: “What would I apologise for? I’ve nothing to do with it.
“The Barron Report was wrong, I’m getting the blame for everything, now I did shoot and kill a man but I did 15 years in prison because I held my hands up to that.
“I did my time for that but the thing is I am not guilty of any bombing because I didn’t agree with bombings.
“Any of the bombings that took place was Belfast people, now everybody including the bloody police knows that and they also know I’m not guilty of any bombing.”
He also identified a fellow loyalist who he claims was responsible for the bombing who is also believed to feature in the ongoing investigation by An Garda Síochána. Bridge claimed the paramilitary was supplied with weapons by RUC reservists.
“Now there was a fella came down from Belfast,” he continued. “He wanted everyone to do these bombings but I wanted nothing to do with it because they were going to bomb people.
“I fell out with them over it before I went into prison and then he took over down here calling himself UDA or UVF but I made enquiries about him and the people I spoke to said he was a nothing, a freelancer. Anyway, this carried on and he arranged people around here to be involved and I wouldn’t do it, he tried to have me killed afterwards because he wanted rid of me.
“When I was jailed he got to me in prison and I was given a beating and left for dead because I wanted nothing to do with it or the paramilitaries.
“I gave up the paramilitaries and went up to Crumlin Road (prison) to do my time as an ordinary prisoner but I had nothing to do with any bombings.
“Why kill innocent people? You’re just as bad as the IRA if you’re going to do that and that was my motto.
“I had absolutely nothing to do with anybody involved with it for that reason. He is the man responsible and the one who set everything up.
“He got them all organised and was involved with RUC reserves in the area, he got weapons and all sorts from them.”
Bridge, who was convicted of the sectarian murder of Catholic road worker Patrick O’Reilly near Irvinestown in 1975, said those responsible for the Belturbet atrocity should come forward but he doubts they will.
“They’ll not come clean. There’s no way they’re going to do it now unless they get immunity from prosecution or something like that,” he said. “There’s no way after 50 years but they should, I pleaded guilty to my crime so why shouldn’t they plead guilty to their crimes.”
In 2020 RTE named now-deceased Enniskillen loyalist George Farrell, who served time for loyalist crimes in the 1970s, as someone who had blamed other loyalists in the area for paramilitary activity at the time.
Bridge says Farrell is the man who implicated him over the Belturbet explosion and claims he did so to save his own skin after being arrested by gardaí crossing the border.
He continued: “The thing about it is George Farrell made up this story about me because he was afraid of the Garda.
“All of this comes down to George Farrell giving a false statement to the Garda. Farrell named me because he was caught crossing the border with a machine-gun at the time, I suppose he thought there was no harm because I was interned at the time.
“He told them he was in my house making bombs on dates when I was in prison which proves he was a bloody liar.
“When I got out I went around to his house because he was dead scared of me and I wanted to tell him I wasn’t going to bother him.
“But anyway the man has died and I don’t hold anything against him but he shouldn’t have told lies about me even though I was in prison for life.
“I didn’t think I was going to get out and I was a bad egg in prison now, fighting with officers and everything because I was never going to be eligible for parole I thought.
“The thing is at the end of the day I’m not guilty of any bombing either north or south, I would never have been involved with killing innocent people.”
Bridge, who still lives in Co Fermanagh, also claimed An Garda Síochána asked him to speak to the bomber in a bid to convince him to come forward.
He continued: “The gardaí wrote me a letter asking me to write to him but I’m not talking to nobody, I’m talking now just to get it off my chest because I’m not guilty.
“The only reason I got involved in my crime and shot that man was because two of my mates were killed, one was a Catholic and one was a Protestant. I took my revenge and that was it, I pleaded guilty and was got out of the road.
“If I had (have) done that (killed innocent people in the Belturbet bomb) I’d have been no better than the IRA, they carried out bombings in Enniskillen which nobody’s been held responsible for.
“My war was with the IRA, true, and if I got hold of IRA men I would’ve killed them, there’s no two ways about it, but the thing is I’m getting blamed for everything just because I done time.
“Just because I admitted a murder and was named in the Barron Report I’m being blamed for all sorts, I even got the blame for a shooting out at Trillick.
“I’ve been blamed for a load of shootings, you might as well turn around and say I shot the Pope because of all the accusations made against me.”
Bridge also callously suggested there was too much of a focus on the Belturbet atrocity, and said the blame directed his way was making him unwell.
“It’s not fair, I’m 78 and I’m not in good health,” he added: “I’m only out of hospital, all of this is putting pressure on me.
“The thing about it is they weren’t the only two people that were killed and that’s what I’m looking at as well, why pile all this pressure on to that? Why not make it a broad scope about all the bombings?
“They might come up with something if they looked into all the bombings, the British Government know if they did that they’d find plenty which points the finger at them but they’ll not point the finger at me for this.
“I want to go to my grave with a clear conscience and without people thinking I was responsible for this.”
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