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

3 July 2002 - The Irish Attorney General has directed the Coroner for County Louth to hold a fresh inquest into the death of Seamus Ludlow.  . . . . Please return for updates and important developments.





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Chronology - Part 6.

30 April 2001 -

30 April 2001 - The following statement was issued by Mr. Bernard Moffatt, Chairman of the Celtic League organization. This was the latest in a series of helpful interventions made by Mr. Moffatt and the Celtic League in support of the Ludlow family's demands (See also the minsterial response of 15 May 2001):



The Celtic league has re-iterated its support for calls by the family of a Co. Louth man murdered 25 years for a public enquiry into the circumstances of his killing

Seamus Ludlow was a 47-year-old forestry worker from Thistlecross, Mountpleasant, near Dundalk who was murdered on the 2nd of May 1976.

It is believed his killing was a case of mistaken identity and that his killers were a loyalist murder gang, at that time operating in the Armagh border area of N. Ireland. 

There is also a strong suspicion of complicity in the killing by the British security forces, who it is alleged were using murder gangs in the north at the time. The use of such irregular forces was based on a counter insurgency theory developed by Frank Kitson an intelligence officer with the British Army.

In January the Minister for Justice, John O'Donoghue, indicated in correspondence to the Celtic League that he was considering ways of meeting the Ludlow families concerns. The Irish government had proposed a private enquiry headed by a senior judicial figure. This was rejected by the Ludlow family.

In correspondence (attached) to government Minister Dermot Ahern, who is also a Louth TD, the League urge a rethink.

Bernard Moffatt

Celtic League 


The Minister for Social, Community & Family Affairs

Mr. Dermot Ahern TD

Office of the Minister

Store Street

Dublin 1


Dear Minister,

We write with reference to the unresolved murder of Seamus Ludlow. The Celtic League have supported the call of the Ludlow family for an independent public enquiry into this matter and indeed we wrote to An Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice and the Secretary of State for N. Ireland on this issue recently (encl.).

The League understand that recently a demonstration to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the murder was held by family and friends and that prior to this you reiterated the governments unwillingness to establish such an enquiry. It was disappointing to hear this. 

In January the Minister for Justice did seem to indicate, in correspondence to us (encl.), that a formula acceptable to the Ludlow family would be found. One of the most positive aspects of the British-Irish peace process is the willingness amongst all sections of the community to confront uncomfortable truths. I do not believe that the British Security
Services, however much they might wish it, are immune from that process.

There have for many years been suspicions about the operation of clandestine military units and their utilisation of loyalist paramilitary groups. Indeed there is currently a furore in the media in the north of Ireland because of attempts by UTV to highlight the activities of such groups.

It is only a full independent enquiry, such as the Ludlow family
are seeking, which can expose the truth. I do hope that the Irish
government will reconsider its stance.

Yours sincerely,

J B Moffatt 

The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries of the
western British Isles and Brittany. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It targets human rights abuse and monitors all military activity within these areas.

TEL (UK)01624 627128 MOBILE (UK)07624 491609

Internet site at

news site at:

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2 May 2001 - Journalist Ed Moloney, Northern Editor of the Sunday Tribune newspaper, was interviewed live for several minutes on the local radio LMFM programme Loose Talk, at 10.45am. During this interview Mr. Moloney spoke at length about the murder of Seamus Ludlow and the subsequent cover-up. He also spoke about the recent referral of the RUC's handling iof the investigation to Nuala O'Loan, the North's new Police Ombudsman. An edited account of this interview can be access on another page by clicking on the link above.

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3 May 2001 - Irish Organizations United, one of the groups actively supporting the Ludlow family in the United States, has added a second temporary page to its website featuring a report of the successful Seamus Ludlow 25th Anniversary Commemoration of 29 April.

The new temporary page can be accessed at

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4 May 2001 - Relatives for Justice have launched a new site.

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14 May 2001 - The Ludlow family pass a letter to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at Ballymascanlan Hotel, just 300 metres from the site of Seamus Ludlow's murder in May 1976. Mr. Ahern and his cabinet were at Ballymascanlan for a special cabinet meeting.  The letter was accepted by John O'Donoghue, Minister for Justice, on Mr. Ahern's behalf.

The Ludlow family's letter reiterated the demand for a public inquiry as well as the request for a family meeting with Mr. Ahern. The Ludlow family deputation included Kevin Ludlow, Mrs. Nan Sharkey, Mrs. Eileen Fox (respectively brother and sisters of the late Seamus Ludlow), Jimmy Sharkey and Brendan Larkin (nephews).

Joined by members of the Watters and Rooney families of Dundalk, who lost loved ones in the Loyalist bombing at Crowe Street in December 1975, the Ludlow family group was courteously received by the Taoiseach's Secretary, though they did not meet with Mr. Ahern himself.

A press release was issued to the assembled press, radio and TV journalists: including the local LMFM Radio who featured a short interview with Jimmy Sharkey in that evening's news bulletin.

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15 May 2001 - This press release was issued by Mr Bernard Moffatt, Chairman of the Celtic League organization. Mr. Moffatt reports a response to the letter he wrote to Irish government minister Dermot Ahern TD on 30 April 2001:



Dermot Ahern T.D., Irish Social Affairs Minister has sidestepped a query from the Celtic League about the controversy surrounding the murder of Co. Louth forestry worker, Seamus Ludlow.

Mr. Ludlow was murdered on the 2nd of May 1976. It is believed that his killers were a loyalist murder gang and there is also a suspicion of complicity by the British security forces.

Recently, following a demonstration to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the murder Mr. Ahern reiterated the governments unwillingness to accede to the families request for an independent public enquiry. The League had written challenging this inertia and urging a rethink. However, in a reply from the Ministers Office, his Private Secretary Aongus Horgan says that " As this matter is proper to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Minister has passed your letter to his colleague, John O'Donoghue T.D., Minister for Justice.

The Celtic League have a great deal of respect for Mr. Ahern particularly in relation to assistance and cooperation he has shown in the past. However, to intervene with public comment which coincided with relatives attempts to highlight the inertia over the Ludlow slaying and then sidestep the issue indicates questionable judgement in this matter.

It is high time that all government Ministers from the Taoiseach down adopted a more positive stance in relation to uncovering the truth about British military involvement in the murder of Irish citizens peacefully going about their business.

Bernard Moffatt

Celtic League 


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries of the
western British Isles and Brittany. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It targets human rights abuse and monitors all military activity within these areas.

TEL (UK)01624 627128 MOBILE (UK)07624 491609

Internet site at

news site at:

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20 May 2001 - Writing in the Sunday Tribune, Catherine Cleary reported that the late Seamus  Ludlow's family's solicitor has accused the Dublin government of:

presenting a "veneer of movement" in the face of calls for a public inquiry into the involvement of security forces in his death.

The brother and nephew of the 46-year-old timber worker who was murdered 25 years ago this month attempted to hand a letter to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at the cabinet meeting at Ballymascanlan Hotel outside Dundalk.

Kevin Ludlow and nephew Jimmy Sharkey presented the letter to Justice Minister John O'Donoghue after they were told the Taoiseach would not be accepting it.

"They want to give a veneer of movement on this," solicitor James MacGuill said last week, describing the official reaction to family calls for a public inquiry. The government was displaying a "dual standard", he said, supporting public inquiries into allegations of security force collusion in murder in Northern Ireland and resisting the same examination of murders in the Republic. . .

Catherine Cleary's report ends:

Meanwhile, a Department of Justice spokesman refused to expand on comments by Justice Minister John O'Donoghue that he was considering allowing access by the families of those murdered in the troubles to the investigation files.

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23 May 2001 - The Ludlow family - represented by Kevin Ludlow, Jimmy Sharkey, Michael Donegan and Brendan Larkin - had another fruitless meeting in Dublin with Irish Justice Minister Mr. John O'Donoghue. The family was accompanied by Jane Winter, Director of British Irish Rights Watch (BIRW), London, who came over at two days notice especially to attend the meeting. Also present was the Ludlow family's legal team led by James MacGuill, Dundalk.

The family was saddened that Mr. O'Donoghue, who had called for the meeting himself at short notice, was still not prepared to respond to their call for a public inquiry. Instead, Mr. O'Donoghue sought to persuade the Ludlow family to accept his plan for a private inquiry under Mr. Justice Henry Barron - where the family would have absolutely no access to witnesses or documents - followed up by open hearings of a Joint Oireachtas Committee. He stressed that a public inquiry was still not excluded, but he refused to move toward the Ludlow family's demand for a public inquiry now.

Mr. O'Donoghue stressed that his support for a private inquiry was in line with the  recommendations of the Irish Victims' Commissioners' report A Place and a Namewhich had called for a private inquiry into the murder of Seamus Ludlow - but, of course, the Ludlow family has never accepted Victims Commissioner John Wilson's proposal. 

Mr. O'Donoghue also stated that he could hardly accede to the Ludlow family's demand for a public inquiry when he had already appointed Mr. Justice Henry Barron to look into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. The Ludlow family rejected the Minister's attempt to link their case to that of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. They are quite different cases, they argued, and each should be judged separately and on their own merits.

It had been hoped that since the Minister had sought the meeting he would have been more constructive in his ideas for resolving the serious issues that remain. Unfortunately, Mr. O'Donoghue would not even consider the Ludlow family's proposals, taking the view that there was nothing more to talk about and that it was the Ludlow family that was being inflexible and the cause of the stalemate!

The government plan was rejected once more by the Ludlow family. The first stage - the private Barron Inquiry - because it fell far short of the Ludlow family's demand for a public inquiry. The latter stage - the Joint Oieachtas Committee -  was highly criticized, not least because it was proving utterly useless in the ongoing Abbeylara Inquiry into the Gardai Emergency Response Uunit's (ERU) shooting dead of the late John Carthy in County Longford. It was pointed out that the Committee's powers were being daily eroded, since it was facing challenges from the gardai and the Department of Justice and was unable to ask the questions that were necessary to get at the truth. This plan therefore had little in it that could be recommended to the Ludlow family.

See also Sunday Business Post article of 17 June.

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31 May 2001 - The following reference to the Ludlow family's 23 May meeting with Irish Minister for Justice John O'Donoghue TD, appeared in Jane Winter's British Irish Rights Watch Director's Report for May 2001:


On 23rd May I travelled to Dublin for a meeting with the Minister for Justice, John O’Donoghue, concerning the case of Seamus Ludlow, who was murdered by loyalists 25 years ago near Dundalk.  The gang who murdered him included two serving UDR soldiers.  Serious questions remain unanswered about the police investigations on both sides of the border.  Without any consultation with the family, the Irish government announced that it intended to refer the matter to the private Commission of Inquiry that is currently looking at the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.  Our meeting was deeply unsatisfactory.  I regret to report that the relatives received neither the respect nor the justice that they deserve.  I have now taken this matter up personally with the Taoiseach.

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13 June 2001 - The Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the distinguished human rights group the Irish Council for Civil Liberties took place in Dublin. The following resolution was on the agenda for ICCL's conference. The Ludlow family has long appreciated the support that it has received from ICCL and other human rights groups.

"This AGM supports the campaign by the Ludlow family for a full independent public inquiry into all of the circumstances surrounding the murder of Seamus Ludlow. The lack of a proper investigation into the murder of Seamus Ludlow is a flagrant breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. The family of Seamus Ludlow have had to endure the fact that the names of the killers were known to the Gardai and withheld from them, as well as the persistent refusal of Government to establish a full independent public inquiry. They have a right to know  all of the circumstances of the murder of their relative, what happened to him and why. ICCL calls on the Government to establish such an inquiry without further delay."

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17 June 2001 - In an article published by the Sunday Business Post newspaper, Maol Muire Tynan, Political Editor, referred to the Ludlow family's recent unsuccessful meeting with Mr. John O'Donoghue, Minister for Justice. This interesting article also featured an interview with Ludlow family member Jimmy Sharkey:

Jimmy Sharkey, a nephew of the dead man, said his family would not meet the minister again "because he is wasting our time and doesn't want to hear what we have to say". A spokesman for the minister denies the claim.

Sharkey told The Sunday Business Post that a meeting with O'Donoghue last month ended unsatisfactorily and that the minister was "very hostile to us".

"We have met the minister twice: in December 1999 and again on May 23 last," Sharkey said. "At the first meeting, he left the table and went to stare out the window. One of his senior officials had to conclude the meeting. In May, the family took the lead and asked the questions, but he became rather hostile and threw his arms up in the air, closed the file and left the room without saying goodbye."

The Minister for Social Community and Family Affairs, Dermot Ahern, and the other Fianna Fail TD for Louth, Seamus Kirk, remained in the meeting for some time afterwards with the family and their solicitors.

A Department of Justice spokesman said the minister believed the matter should be investigated by a judge and referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee. He said that this course of action "would not prejudice the possibility of a public inquiry if that were then considered necessary".

Responding to the claim that the minister was unsympathetic, the spokesman said that anyone who knows John O'Donoghue would realise this is not "the way he does businesss."

The murder was considered by the former minister, John Wilson, and the Victims' Commission which recommended that because a file on the case was with the DPP in the North, no proposal should be made which would endanger the prosecution of any guilty party. Now that the DPP has decided not to press charges, Ludlow's relations claim there is no impediment to a public inquiry.

"We are not buying into taking part in the Barron inquiry into the Dublin/Monaghan bombings. This is a completely different case," Sharkey said.

Sharkey insists that the present approach will yield no results: "John O'Donoghue told us he would think about giving us access to the Garda files. We sat for two years waiting to see what he would come up with. This is a waste of time."

See the full Sunday Business Post story.

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29 June 2001 - In an article in the Dundalk local newspaper The Argus, headlined "Deputy seeks a forum to process cases such as that of  Seamus Ludlow", it is reported that County Louth TD, Seamus Kirk:

 has asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, John O'Donoghue, to examine the feasibility of establishing a truth and reconciliation forum to process such cases as the Seamus Ludlow murder and other unexplained deaths.

In a written reply, Mr. O'Donoghue stated that the Victims' Commissioner, Mr. John Wilson had stated in his report "A Place and a Name" that in respect to Mr. Ludlow's case, he was "aware of the family's wish that the full truth of the case should be brought to light."

The Victims Commissioner had also said that he was "swayed by their argument that a criminal trial will not necessarily bring out the full facts of the case" and recommended that an enquiry should be conducted into the case along the lines of the enquiry into the Dublin/Monaghan bombings.

Mr. O'Donoghue said that the Government decided in principle in September 1999 to establish an inquiry into the case of Mr. Ludlow as well as the bombings in Dublin/Monaghan and Dundalk.

"This proposed inquiry - which would be carried out on the same basis as the present inquiry into the Dublin/Monaghan bombings - has not found favour with the relatives of Mr. Ludlow or their legal representatives," he said. "In the circumstances, I am considering how best to progress the matter, and I shall put proposals to this end before Government as soon as I am in a position to do so."

He added that insofar as other cases are concerned, the report of the Victims Commission had recommended "that the Government, taking  heed of the need to preserve confidentiality and safety of information, should, on request from the families of victims, produce reports on the investigations of murders arising from the conflict over the last 30 years where no one has been made amenable".

He was currently preparing an implementation plan in respect to the reports' recommendations which he hoped to bring to Government shortly.

It is interesting here that it is implied rather strongly that the Dublin authorities had "decided in principle in September 1999 to establish an inquiry into the case of Mr. Ludlow as well as the bombings in Dublin/Monaghan and Dundalk", since it is clear that the murder of Seamus Ludlow was completely excluded from the original remit of the late Mr. Justice Hamilton when he was tasked by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in 1999 with investigating  in private the Dublin/Monaghan and Dundalk bombings only. 

While the Ludlow family have consistently rejected any proposal for a private inquiry it is still interesting that it appears that the Ahern government wasn't even prepared to offer that as an option when the late Mr. Hamilton was first appointed to look into the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings.

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1 July 2001 - In a full page article by Donna Carton in the Irish editions of the British newspaper The Sunday Mirror, in which a member of the Ludlow family spoke at length about the family's campaign for truth and justice, the following comments from the Department of Justice were cited:

The Department of Justice said yesterday that it too wanted to discover the full truth behind the Ludlow murder but insisted an inquiry along the lines of the Dublin/Monaghan probe was the best approach at this stage.

A Department spokesman said: "The Government decided in September 1999 to establish an inquiry into bombings in Dublin/Monaghan and Dundalk as well as the Ludlow case.

"The minister has met with Mr. Ludlow's relatives and their representatives in December, 1999, and twice in May, 2001, and proposed that the same process as applied in the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk inquiries should apply in relation to Mr. Ludlow, i.e.. an investigation by a judge and referral to the Joint Oireachtas Committee.

"This course of action would not prejudice the possibility of a public inquiry if that were then considered necessary."

The spokesman said that "efforts will continue to be made to resolve the impasse" between the Government and the Ludlow family

It is to be hoped that efforts to "resolve the impasse between the Government and the Ludlow family" are not confined to further attempts at persuasion of the family to accept exactly what has been firmly rejected - the proposal for a private inquiry followed by an open hearing before a very much weakened Joint Oireachtas Committee. The Ludlow family have been firm in their demands for a public inquiry and attempts to exclude that outcome will merely prolong the impasse.

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1 July 2001 - Chris Anderson, writing in The Sunday Mirror, reports that the Dublin authorities are furious over British "silence" and lack of cooperation on the continuing private Dublin and Monaghan bombings probe of Mr. Justice Henry Barron. It is reported that the retired judge, who is continuing the private inquiry begun by the late former Chief Justice Liam Hamilton:

 has told relatives of the victims that the British authorities had not provided information in their possession on the explosions.

Mr. Barron told the relatives that as a result of the British non-cooperation he could not indicate when the commission would complete its inquiries.

This, of course, gives the Ludlow family little confidence in this  private  process of inquiry as a suitable process into the murder of Seamus Ludlow, where there can be no doubt that a considerable amount of evidence is in the hands of the RUC and the British authorities in Belfast. 

This failure to get at all the evidence, combined with the recent undermining of the Joint Oireachtas Committee investigation into the shooting dead by gardai of John Carthy at Abbeylara, by the Gardai and the Department of Justice, does nothing to persuade the Ludlow family that they were wrong in rejecting such a private inquiry process.

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1 August 2001 - In their much discussed "package" of proposals to the North's political party leaders, aimed at delivering the "full and early implementation of the Good Friday Agreement", Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary of State Dr. John Reid MP and the Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen TD included the following on a number of contentious cases of alleged or actual "collusion":

18. Both Governments want the new policing arrangements now being established to focus on the future. But they accept that certain cases from the past remain a source of grave public concern, particularly those giving rise to serious allegations of collusion by the security forces in each of our jurisdictions. Both Governments will therefore appoint a judge of international standing from outside both jurisdictions to undertake a thorough investigation of allegations of collusion in the cases, of the murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan, Pat Finucane, Lord Justice and Lady Gibson, Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson and Billy Wright.

19. The investigation of each individual case will begin no later that April 2002 unless this is clearly prejudicial to a forthcoming prosecution at that time. Detailed terms of reference will be published but the appointed judge will be asked to review all papers, interview anyone who can help, establish the facts and report with recommendations for any further action. Arrangements will be made to hear the views of the victims' families and keep them informed of progress. If the appointed judge considers that in any case this has not provided a sufficient basis on which to establish the facts, he or she can report to this effect with recommendations as to what further action should be taken. In the event that a Public Inquiry is recommended in any case, the relevant Government will implement that recommendation.

Significantly, for the Ludlow family, the two governments have not included the murder of Seamus Ludlow, a clear case of collusion involving the Gardai, RUC and British Army and the Loyalist killers, at least in the cover-up after the crime was committed,  in this private judicial inquiry process. Significantly, also, they promise a degree of openness to relevant families that has not at all been evident in recent Belfast and Dublin contacts with the Ludlow family.

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5 August 2001 - The following anonymous Loyalist hate message was sent through this website's e-mail form to the Ludlow family. The writer poses as a supporter of the SAS campaign against what he/she calls "terrorist from both sides", but the last sentence gives the game away. This is another shameful apologist for the loyalist murder gangs intent on perpetuating cruel lies about an innocent victim of the UDR and Red Hand Commando death squad.

It is of course interesting that the writer does not question the fact that Seamus Ludlow was murdered by the Red Hand Commando - far from it, this writer proudly boasts that they were responsible, and he feels that he has a right to insult the Ludlow family by denigrating the memory of their loved one..

It is not the Ludlow family's custom to publish every pathetic jibe that comes from such despicable supporters of the loyalist killers, but there are occasions when they should be shown up for the evil and disgusting liars that they are!

 A few fair comments.

 My heart bleeds after your pathetic sob story. Ludlow was a terrorist who got no more than he deserved.
I note with disgust your comment about the SAS, may I point out that they are best special forces unit in the world, who have done so much to rid Northern Ireland of evil terrorists from both side? Yes, that does include Loyalists as well, check it out and see!
Your nasty jibe at that individual who posted the comment on the Defend The RUC Website was cruel and unecessary.
I hope that you people are treated with the contempt you deserve, after all, the RHC didn't cross the Border to simply kill an innocent & decent Catholic now did they?

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