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




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The Barron Report is Published

(Details from the Conclusions of the Barron Report are printed here in italics.)

Mr Justice Henry Barron.3 November 2005: It has been a long and hectic day for the Ludlow family, and a day filled with drama, disappointment, shambolic confusion, and finally relief that another phase of the Ludlow family's campaign for justice has been completed. 

At last the private Barron Inquiry Report has been puiblished, more than twelve months after it was received by the Dublin government. The Report covers a number of related matters, which can be summarised as follows:

Facts, circumstances and perpetrators of the killing.

Nature, extent and adequacy of the Garda investigations.

The reasons why no prosecutions took place.

Circumstances relating to the non-attendance of the Ludlow family at the first inquest (19 August 1976).

Garda liaison with the Ludlow family.

The British Army questioning of the late Kevin Donegan.

Allegations of IRA involvement in Seamus Ludlow's murder.

By all accounts the 100-page Report is complete, there being no deletions or redactions. It has never been the Ludlow family policy to publicly name the chief suspects for the murder of Seamus Ludlow, even though their names have been known to the family for several years. They are named here now only because Mr Justice Barron has seen fit to publish them in his Report.

"The facts and circumstances as they appear to the Inquiry have been set out in this report. They indicate that Seamus Ludlow was picked up by a car near the bridge on the Dundalk to Newry road; that this car was driven by James Fitzsimmons and contained three other passengers - Richard Long, Samuel Carroll and Paul Hosking. Information obtained by the RUC from Hosking suggested that it was Carroll who shot Seamus Ludlow. The Inquiry has not been in a position to test the veracity of this allegation

"As to the cause of the murder: it would seem to have been a random, sectarian killing of a blameless catholic civilian by loyalist extremists. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Seamus Ludlow was known to his attackers, or that he had any republican sympathies which might have led to his being targetted by loyalist subversives."

 "The above version of events is based on the information given to the RUC by Hosking and Fitzsimmons: Carroll and Long have consistently denied any knowledge or involvement in the murder. However, the inconsistencies and gaps in the stories told by Hosking and Fitzsimmons, together with the fact that they may have been seeking to minimise their own role, means that the notes of their interviews should be treated with caution" From the Barron Report (Conclusions: page 83)

Earlier in the day, the Ludlow family were not at all happy with the way they were being treated by the government and the oireachtas committee regarding the timing and the important detail of invitation or non-invitation to the event. 

As of Wednesday, evening (2 November) the family were being led to believe that the Barron Report would not after all be published until Friday morning. Then, late Wednesday Jimmy Sharkey was informed by a journalist the the Report would indeed be published on Thursday. No formal notification was forthcoming from the government or from the oireachtas committee.

This apparent snub angered the Ludlow family! In the absence of such an official invitation it was decided that the Ludlow family would not be going to Dublin. The Ludlow family would not allow themselves to face press queries about a Report they had not seen!

Jimmy Sharkey and his uncle Kevin Ludlow spoke out against this governmental failure on local LMFM Radio, and his anger got through to the authorities in Dublin - they must have been asked to comment on their failure. 

Was it a breakdown of communications or was there something more sinister involved? These were the questions that came to mind.

It was seen as yet further proof of the state's contempt for the Ludlow family and consistent with the contempt the Ludlow family have been facing for almost thirty years now.

The government was clearly shaken by the press and family reaction to their mishandling of the Ludlow family's interests.  Michael McDowell, Minister for Justice, addressed the issue with an announcement in Leinster House. He said that copies of the Report would be rushed up to Dundalk for the family before 3.00pm. He regretted that the family had not been kept informed.

"It is hard to see why this questioning (of the late Kevin Donegan, Seamus Ludlow's brother-in-law) should not have been a matter of greater concern to Gardai. The questioning may have taken place outside the State, but the crime to which it related happened within the jurisdiction.

"What is important about the questioning of Kevin Donegan by British Army officers, not members of the RUC, is that it raises a suspicion that the British Army had information concerning the murder of Seamus Ludlow, and at the same time was anxious to discover whether such information was available to the Gardai or the family. In view of the fact that when information was later received that there were four suspects, two of whom were members of the UDR - a regiment of the British Army - the suspicion that the British Army was immediately aware of the circumstances of the murder arises.

"As was indicated in its correspondence with the Secretary of State for Nothern Ireland, the Inquiry finds it difficult to accept that there are no written records relating to this incident in the archives of the British Army." From the Barron Report (Conclusions - pages 86-87)

It was then decided that Ludlow family members would go to Dublin. The family was represented by Kevin Ludlow (brother of the late Seamus Ludlow), and nephews Jimmy, Michael and Nicholas Sharkey, and Michael Donegan.

These relatives of Seamus Ludlow were really looking forward to getting the Barron Report. Imagine their dismay when, while still travelling to Dublin, they received a phone-call from solicitor James MacGuill, informing them that there may be no publication of the Report that day after all, it could be postponed until Friday.

This made the relatives of Seamus Ludlow really angry, not knowing what games were being played in Dublin. They were determined to go on to Dublin and raise pure hell until they got the Barron Report, or at least a satisfactory explanation for the latest setback. On arriving in Dublin they found that the media people waiting at the hotel, were just as puzzled and angry as they were. Also present was Margaret Urwin, Secretary of Justice For the Forgotten, representing victims and bereaved of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974.

It was nearly two hours later before confirmation came through that the oireachtas committee would be publishing the Barron Report at 5.00pm. The Ludlow family and their solicitor would receive copies of the Report at 4.00pm so that they could read through it before it was published under parliamentary privilege.

The family are understandably angry at the fact that the information concerning suspects received by Gardai in 1979 was not made known to them until the Sunday Tribune published the articles on the matter in 1998. However, it is clear that none of the local officers (with the exception of Supt Courtney, D/Sgt Corrigan and the senior officers to whom they reported) were aware of this information, at the time or subsequently. The failure of the investigating officers to inform the family is rooted in the far more serious failure to follow up the information by having the suspects questioned. From the Barron Report (Conclusions - page 86)

The published 100-page Barron Report names all of the loyalist suspects and Judge Barron is highly critical of the Gardai for their failure to go after the suspects after 1979.

Though it names the four suspects, the Barron Report has not been able to clearly establish who killed Seamus Ludlow, but Justice Barron did say that the Dundalk forestry worker's death was a random sectarian killing of an innocent Catholic by loyalist extremists.

Mr Justice Barron says the murder of Seamus Ludlow was never properly investigated.

"From the evidence available to it, the Inquiry believes that the only credible explanation for the failure to pursue these suspects is that a direction was given which led the investigating officer, D/Supt Dan Murphy to abandon plans to have the suspects interviewed outside the jurisdiction.

"As to why such a direction mifght have been issued, only one credible explanation has been offered - that it was done in order to avoid a siuation where gardai might feel obliged to reciprocate by allowing RUC officers to attend interviews of suspects in the State." From the Barron Report (Conclusions: page 83)

Most damning of all he alleges (above) gardai were prevented from questioning the four loyalist suspects in the North because of fears that the RUC might have demanded reciprocal rights in the Republic. Political considerations were allowed to dictate the failure of the murder investigations.

Mr Justice Barron reports that files are missing from Gardai Headquarters and the Department of Justice. He points the finger of blame for the failure to prosecute at Laurence Wren, a former Assistant Garda Commissioner. 

Former Garda Commissioner Laurence Wren. He denied issuing the order for not interviewing  the four suspects in 1979.The Barron Report says the decision was probably made by Deputy Commissioner Laurence Wren, but that he was likely to have discussed it with senior gardaí and with the Department of Justice.

At the time of Seamus Ludlow's killing in 1976 and until 1979, Deputy Commissioner Wren was in charge of the C3 Security & Intelligence section of the gardaí.

In a letter sent three weeks before publication, Mr Wren warned Mr Justice Barron that he had no intention of accepting the conclusions about his role that appear in the published Report. He wrote: "If the report is eventually published as it now stands, I will be compelled to take corrective action to clear my name." 

In an interview broadcast on RTÉ Radio, Mr Wren said he had never heard of the four suspects in the case being named before he went before Mr Justice Henry Barron for his report.

According to the Barron Report, Mr Wren was likely not to have pursued the men because the RUC might demand reciprocal rights in the Republic.

But speaking on 4 November 2005, Mr Wren said that it was a well-established policy that in political cases police did not cross the border in either direction.

In the Barron report, the former Garda Commissioner, Pat Byrne, acknowledged that garda management was 'somewhat remiss' in doing its job. He said the failure to pursue the four men lay with all senior management.

However, Mr Wren said the matter had not been his direct concern and therefore he did not consider himself to have had a part in this failure.

It appears that Mr Wren is expected to carry the can for what was undoubtedly a collective decision which may well have been authorised by others above him in the gardaí and the Department of Justice. These faceless others hope to avoid being exposed for their role in this scandalous injustice against the late Seamus Ludlow and his family.

There appears to be no justification for the failure to notifty Kevin Ludlow of the date of the inquest into his brother's death. Given the nature and circumstances of his brother's death, other family members should also have been notified.

The failure to notify Kevin Ludlow is partially explained by the fact that he was on holiday in County Cavan at the time. But this does not excuse whichever Garda member was deputed to notify him of the time and date of the inquest. If the member concerned failed to make contact with him, he should have persisted. He should certainly have reported this failure to his superiors.

The identity of the member or members who were given responsibility for contacting Kevin Ludlow remains unknown. It should have been expected that as the murder occurred in Dromad district, a Garda officer attached to Dromad station would have been instructed to notify Kevin Ludlow. If so, that would explain why, when Kevin Ludlow went to Dundalk Garda Station, no-one there had any relevant knowledge. On the other hand, in his letter of 16 January 1997, local Garda Sergeant Jim Gannon said that the task was given to a member attached to Dundalk Garda Station.

According to Kevin Ludlow's wife, she was told by Gardai that the inquest could not be put back. There is no explanation as to why she was told that, since the question of whether or not to postpone was a matter for the coroner to decide; not the police.

In the end, the fact that the inquest proceeded reflects a belief that, as the cause of death was undisputed; the inquest procedure was a formality. While this was technically true, the decision to proceed in the absence of family members caused them unnecessary hurt and annoyance, at a time of extraordinary sadness and difficulty in their lives. From the Barron Report (Conclusions - page 86)

Mr Justice Barron did not find evidence of collusion, but that is hardly surprising since the British authorities in the North gave him practically no cooperation, and many files in Dublin are missing, incomplete or were never maintained. He was not allowed to find the evidence of collusion. All the more reason in the Ludlow family's view, for a public inquiry.

Sometime after the Barron Report's publication, and many press, TV and Radio interviews the Ludlow family group went to the RTE studios where Jimmy Sharkey and James MacGuill, (Ludlow family solicitor) and Paul O'Connor (of the Pat Finucane Centre, Derry) were interviewed on air on the Prime Time programme. 

In all of these interviews - outside Leinster House, at Buswell's Hotel, or at RTE - the Ludlow family maintained that the Barron Report cries out for a fully independent public inquiry as the only way to get to all the facts of the case and to finally secure justice for the late Seamus Ludlow

TDs involved in next year's sub-committee investigation, planned to begin in January, warned  that senior Garda officers of that time and today would face "very tough questions".

Fianna Fáil TD Sean Ardagh, chairman of the committee and the newly established sub-committee, refused to comment on the Barron Report's content or pre-empt the findings of the sub-committee.

Mr Ardagh said: "Committee members only received this report at 11.30am today and have not had a chance to consider it fully."

Mr Justice Barron said his job was made more difficult as documents were lost, destroyed or misplaced and key witnesses were ill, dead or unable to remember important events.

Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy accepted that there "were issues" in the original investigation. "In recent years, An Garda Síochána has taken whatever actions were available to right the situation and in this regard co-operated fully with the Barron and other inquiries and will continue to do so," he said.

On 5 November 2005, in a Belfast Telegraph exclusive report, Michael McHugh, spoke to Paul Hosking, one of the four loyalist suspects named by Mr Justice Henry Barron in his private inquiry report that was published under parliamentary privilege by an oireachtas committee on Thursday.

Mr Hosking admits to  being present when Seamus Ludlow was murdered, but he maintains his innocence of the crime.

In an extraordinary statement Mr Hosking:

said he was tired of having the finger pointed at him and added that he may make a submission to the Irish Justice Committee, which will consider the report in January.

"This has been going on for years and I am fed up with it," he said. "I feel like I am the victim, it is awful for my family and they have gone through hell."

While the Ludlow family is sorry to hear that Mr Hosking's family has suffered, he should be reminded that the victims here are the murdered Seamus Ludlow, the innocent man he and his companions left lying in a County Louth lane, and his family who have lived through almost thirty years of loss and pain, aggravated by lies and smears which helped keep him and his three Red Hand Commando/UDR companions free from justice. 

To read the article go here >>>

Writing in the Irish Independent, on the same day, Maurice Hayes, commenting on the publication of the Barron Report, concludes with the suggestion:

Maybe the time has come to draw a line under the past to agree to a closure of the books and to move on from there.

While kind advice is always welcome, Mr Hayes should know that the Ludlow family takes advice from their legal representative and their friends, and not from columnists in the Irish Independent who know nothing of the loss this family has suffered.

See also:

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See press release from Margaret Urwin, Secretary of Justice for the Forgotten.

See also, the following press coverage of yesterday's publication of the private Barron Report:, 3 November 2005: Ludlow murder was 'random sectarian killing' - Barron

UTV news online, 3 November 2005: 'Barron report to be published'

See also, the following press coverage of yesterday's publication of the private Barron Report:

The Irish Independent, 4 November 2005: Ludlow family insists public inquiry is crucial to getting justice for their father

BBC News online: 4 November 2005: Call for public inquiry into 1976 murder

RTE News online, 4 November 2005: Wren rejects Barron report finding

The Irish Times, 4 November 2005: Ludlow report criticises Garda investigation

The Belfast Telegraph, 4 November 2005 Relatives of man killed by loyalists urge police action probe

The Irish Examiner - Editorial, 4 November 2005: Family needs a full-scale inquiry

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