The Murder of Seamus Ludlow in County Louth, May 1976. Towards a public inquiry?




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Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights

Sub-Committee on the Barron Report on the Murder of Seamus Ludlow

At the Joint Oireachtas Sub-Committee

(Jan-Feb 2006)

Members of the Ludlow family  leaving the first session of the Joint Oireachtas sub-committee on 24 January 2006.

Above: Members of the Ludlow family  leaving the first session of the Joint Oireachtas sub-committee on 24 January 2006. 

Open hearings of the Joint Oireachtas sub-committee on Justice's inquiry into the recently published Barron Report into the 1976 murder of Seamus Ludlow commenced on 24 January 2006 with submissions from several members of the extended Ludlow family and their solicitor James McGuill, Dundalk. (See links to their submissions below). 

In the afternoon session on 24 January important submissions were also made by Justice for the Forgotten and British Irish Rights Watch.

Joint Oireachtas sub-committee sessions continued the following week on 31 January and 1 February, with important evidence taken from retired Gardai and former politicians, as well as the current Garda Commissioner. (See the Hearings Schedule below) 

Members of the Ludlow family were present at all seven sessions

The Ludlow family makes submissions before the Oireachtas sub-committee on Justice.

The Ludlow family had long waited on this opportunity to go before the Oirreachtas sub-committee on the Barron Report on the Murder of Seamus Ludlow to assist the sub-committee in its important work. It also provided the opportunity for the Ludlow family to restate their undimmed demand for a public inquiry into their deceased relative's foul murder and the gardai's failure over thirty years to go after his loyalist killers, who have been known since 1979! 

The Oireachtas sub-committee hearings afforded an opportunity to comment on the recently published Barron Report which has left many crucial questions central to the Ludlow family's concerns still unanswered. Mr Justice Barron did as well as he could given the remit he operated within! Given that the Oireachtas sub-committee operates with similar restrictions it, also, will be unable to find the answers that only a full public inquiry can deliver!

The private Barron Inquiry process was unable to get the answers because it lacked the powers to ensure that important witnesses had to give full and frank cooperation. Witnesses could refuse to cooperate and documents could in theory be withheld! Certainly, the British authorities in the North refused any meaningful cooperation with Mr Justice Barron, and many documents in gardai and Departmnent of Justice files are said to be "lost"! Similarly, important forensics evidence in garda custody - bullets, clothing and fingerprint evidence - has reportedly been mislaid. The Barron Report can offer no explanation! This is simply unacceptable!

Furthermore, Mr Justice Barron's private inquiry offered no opportunity to the Ludlow family to view the evidence he heard, denying them the opportunity to assist him by pointing to inconsistencies and other shortcomings in the information he heard.

The inability of Mr Justice Barron to secure vital documents and to subpoena witnesses who could be questioned and cross-examined under oath severely hampered his inquiry. He was unable to get to the bottom of the garda failure to go after the suspected loyalist and UDR killers of Seamus Ludlow when they were identified to them in 1979. No satisfactory reason could be found for this failure and those responsible - whoever they are - have yet come forth with explanations. 

Similarly, no explanation has been found for the failure to have the Ludlow family informed of the date and time of the original inquest in August 1976. The Ludlow family's claims of garda lies over more than twenty years - that Seamus Ludlow was murdered by the IRA and that family members were involved - have not been proved or disproved! The liars remain determined to deny everything! 

The Ludlow family welcomed the  opportunity provided by the open hearings before the Oireachtas sub-committee in its deliberations on the Barron Report as a chance to state publicly their dissatisfaction with the private inquiry process. It was also a chance to plead forcefully in front of the sub-committee for a public inquiry.

Regrettably, this first open session of the Oireachtas sub-committee's examination of the Barron Report into the murder of Seamus Ludlow was not broadcast on live TV, though every minute of it was filmed.

Several members of the Ludlow family circle, including Seamus Ludlow's only surviving brother Kevin, and two of his three sisters, Mrs Nan Sharkey and Mrs Eileen Fox, travelled to Dublin on 24 January 2006, to make submissions and answer questions before the Joint Oireachtas Justice sub-committee. Also present were Jimmy Sharkey, Brendan Ludlow, Nicholas Sharkey and Michael Donegan, and Mrs Briege Doyle, nephews and niece of the late Seamus Ludlow.

A third sister, Mrs Kathleen Donegan, was unable to travel. Even so, her son Michael was there to tell the tale of how she was visited at her home in south Armagh by British soldiers who set out to establish as fact the false claim that her murdered brother was an informer and that he was killed by the IRA. 

The sub-committee also heard how her late husband Kevin Donegan was abducted by the British Army from Forkhill RUC barracks and airlifted to Bessbrook Mill, where he was interrogated by a British military intelligence officer about the gardai's line of inquiry! 

In his opening remarks the Sub-Committee Chairman Mr Sean Ardagh TD, commented on the failure of the British military authorities to cooperate with Mr Justice Barron in the preparation of his report, including their failure to assist in his queries regarding the abduction of Kevin Donegan.

The Ludlow family members present individually made personal submissions and answered committee members' queries regarding their own experiences from the aftermath of Seamus Ludlow's foul murder, including their recollections of being lied to by individual gardai regarding the perpetrators of this killing. 

Also mentioned was the still-unexplained failure of gardai to ensure that the Ludlow family was given sufficient notice of the date and time for the original inquest into Seamus Ludlow's death on 19 August 1976, and also the fact that the inquest went ahead in their absence!

The Ludlow family solicitor James McGuill, said:

This has been an appalling three decades of experience of how an ordinary law-abiding family found themselves in a set of completely life-changing circumstances which was compounded by the state authorities they had to deal with.

The Ludlow relatives accused the gardai of mounting a thirty-year cover-up following the murder of Seamus on 2 May 1976, by a four-man loyalist death squad. They renewed their calls for a public inquiry into the murder and the subsequent failure of the gardai to go after the killers. It was pointed out that the Oireachtas sub-committee, suffering limitations similar to those that held Mr Justice Barron back, will be unable to find the truth.

The late Seamus Ludlow's nephew Jimmy Sharkey told the oireachtas sub-committee:

The Barron Report left a lot of unanswered questions. The forum for these to be addressed is an independent public inquiry. It is the bottom line for us. Nothing less, Nothing more.

Jimmy urged the members of the Oireachtas sub-committee to recommend that the Government give a new inquiry the power to compel witnesses to attend and to secure all necessary documents. "We don't want a long drawn-out inquiry like Saville (into Bloody Sunday). We'd be happy with an independent inquiry that got thongs done quickly," he said.

Referring to the questions left unanswered by the Barron Report, like why the gardai didn't act when they were given the suspected killers' names by the RUC in 1979, Jimmy continued: "We want to find out where the buck stops. Seamus' case was handed around the gardai like a hot potato"

Jimmy added:.

We also believe there are documents still existing that were never given to Barron. An inquiry would need the power to get access to those. We finaly want to know what really happened.

Kevin Ludlow, making an emotional submission, said the family had still not received an apology from the gardai who lied to the family repeatedly over many years; falsely claiming that his late brother Seamus had been killed by the IRA - and by implication that he was an informer. They had also smeared a member of the Ludlow family as being involved in this brutal murder.

It's a shame to think of the way the gardai acted. We were treated very badly. Nothing only lies from the gardai. We shouldn't have to go through all of this for 30 years. . .It wasn't fair what was done to us. They were covering up the whole thing all the time.

The long-overdue apology was finally issued by the Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy at the third day of the sub-committee hearings on 1 February. As The Irish Independent (2 February) notes:

Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy has apologised to the family of the late Seamus Ludlow for the failure of the force in the investigation of Mr Ludlow's murder almost 30 years ago.

He also apologised for the failure of the gardai to notify relatives about the inquest into his death.

"I regret very much that we did not bring this case to a satisfactory conclusion and the management of the gardai feel the same way," the commissioner said.

Commissioner Conroy kindly followed this public statement with a private word with members of the Ludlow family present when the oireachtas sub-committee session had ended. While the apology was deeply appreciated, it was felt that it should have been made long ago by Mr Conroy's predecessors! Remember, gardai had admitted privately to the existence of an RUC file from 1979 with the names of four loyalist suspects as far back as 1998, yet no apology for the cruel lies told for more than twenty years was forthcoming! 

The open sessions of the first day of the Oireachtas sub-committee continued in the afternoon with further submissions from Justice for the Forgotten and from Jane Winter, Director of the London-based human rights body British Irish Rights Watch. Their submissions can be viewed on the official transcript which is available to download in Word format from the Oireachtas website at the web address given below.

A transcript of this first open hearing of the Justice sub-committee can be downloaded in Word file format from the Oireachtas website at: 


 To Top  See the Hearings Schedule below to read the Ludlow family submissions.

See also:

Sub-Committee on the Barron Report on the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings of 1974
Sub-Committee on the Barron Report on The Dublin Bombings 1972 and 1973

Membership of the Sub-Committee

Deputy Seán Ardagh (FF) (Chairman)
Deputy Joe Costello (LAB)
Deputy Máire Hoctor (FF)
Deputy Finian McGrath (IND)
Deputy Gerard Murphy (FG)
Deputy Peter Power (FF)
Senator Jim Walsh (FF)


Hearings schedule

24 January 2006


Morning session:
10.00 am - Members of the Ludlow family

Chairman's Opening Remarks

James McGuill (Ludlow family solicitor)

Kevin Ludlow (brother of the late Seamus Ludlow)

Mrs Nan Sharkey (sister)

Mrs Eileen Fox (sister)

Michael Donegan (nephew)

Brendan Ludlow (nephew)

Mrs Briege Doyle (niece)

Jimmy Sharkey (nephew)

Afternoon session:
2.00 pm - Justice for the Forgotten
3.00 pm - British Irish Rights Watch
Transcript of the meeting 24/01/2006 Transcript of the meeting 24/01/2006 on the Oireachtas Website.

 31 January 2006

Morning sesssion - 10.00 am:

Former Detective Superintendent John Courtney

Former Chief Superintendent Richard Cotterell

Former Commissioner Larry Wren

Former Assistant Commissioner Joseph Ainsworth

Former Minister for Justice Gerry Collins

Afternoon session - 2.00 pm:

Former TD Brendan McGahon

Former Detective Sargeant Gary Kavanagh

Former Detective Garda Terry Hynes

1 February 2006

Morning session - 11.00 am:

Former Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne

Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy



See the Following press coverage of the Oireachtas Sub-Committee hearings:

The Sunday Tribune, 22 January 2006: Family wants full inquiry into 1976 murder 'cover-up'

The Irish News, 24 January 2006: Ludlow family still seek justice three decades after murder 

The Irish News, 24 January 2006: Ludlow family want full inquiry

The Irish Times, 24 January 2006: Ludlow murder inquiry to begin

ireland online, 24 January 2006 11:46:15, Gardaí accused of continually lying about Ludlow murder

UTV News online, Tuesday, 24 January 2006 08:01:52 : Hearing on Ludlow killing

RTE News online, 24 January 2006 11:42: Hearing on Ludlow report begins

The Dundalk Democrat, 25 January 2006: Seamus Ludlow Oireachtas hearings Emotional scenes on first day of hearing

The Dundalk Democrat, 25 January 2006: Moloney set to give evidence

The Argus (Dundalk), 25 January 2006: Public enquiry nothing more nothing less

The Irish Examiner, 25 January 2006: Family seeks independent inquiry into man’s murder

The Irish Sun, 25 January 2006: Now give us justice Public inquiry call as family rap loyalist murder cover-up

The Newry Democrat, 25 January 2006: Bereaved families welcome investigation team

Daily Ireland, 25 January 2006: Cover-up at 'cabinet level' By Ciarán Barnes Loyalist murder victim Séamus Ludlow's nephew says senior officials hid the truth Public inquiry called for in Ludlow murder case

The Irish Times, 25 January 2006: Family Of Murdered Louth Man Claims Gardaí Treated Them Badly

The Irish Times, 25 January 2006: Collusion Claimed At Core Of Case

The Irish News, 25 January 2006: Ludlows stand by inquiry demand

The Belfast Telegraph, 26 January 2006: Call to set up special police team in Republic to probe terrorist killings

The Newry Democrat, 31 January 2006: Ludlow family insist on full public inquiry

RTE News online, 31 January 2006 12:53 Former Commissioner giving Ludlow evidence

RTE News online, 31 January 2006 16:17 Former Commissioner gives Ludlow evidence

ireland online 31 January 2006 17:25:56: Hearings on Ludlow murder told of border fear

‘Bodies dumped on Border roadsides’

The Irish News, 1 February 2006: Hearing told of 'fear all around the border'

The Irish Times, 1 February 2006: Wren says decision on Ludlow suspects not his

The Belfast Telegraph, 2 February 2006: Gardai will ask PSNI to re-open death case

The Irish Times, 2 February 2006: Conroy would consult PSNI over reopening Ludlow case

The Irish Independent, 2 February 2006: Force failed Ludlow family, admits Garda


I Top

Download the Barron Report from the Oireachtas website (pdf file)


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Copyright © 2006 the Ludlow family. All rights reserved.
Revised: May 01, 2006