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 8.

3 January 2002 - 27 June 2002


  Revised: July 12, 2005.

3 January 2002 - The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, Mrs Nuala O'Loan, responded to the Ludlow family's request for an investigation into the RUC's handling of the Seamus Ludlow case by writing the following letter to the Ludlow family's Dundalk solicitor:

Dear Sirs

Re: Seamus Ludlow deceased

I write further to my letter of 6 November 2001. We have detailed files in relation to the investigation, insofar as it was carried out in Northern Ireland by the RUC. The situation is compounded by the cross border difficulties of the Garda investigation, over which I have absolutely no jurisdiction. We are, however, considering the entire contents of the file including the investigation which was carried out more recently by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I would hope to be in a position to respond to you by the end of this month with something definitive in relation to Mr Ludlow's case.

I apologise for the delay in dealing with this matter.

Yours sincerely

See also: Ludlow family's meeting with Mrs O'Loan on 4 March 2002
See also: The Sunday Tribune, 15 April 2001: O'Loan asked to investigate Ludlow killing

17 January 2002 - Writing to Ludlow family member Jimmy Sharkey - in reply to a letter dated 12 December 2001 - Mr. Gerry Adams MP (Sinn Fein) said:

I and Sinn Fein are fully in support of your family's campaign into the circumstances of the murder of your Uncle Seamus Ludlow.

I spoke to the Taoiseach about this when I met with him a week ago. I also gave him a copy of your letter and he assured me he would respond.

I will keep in touch.

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21 February 2002 - The Ludlow family has been informed that the Dublin Government has decided to disregard their demands for a public inquiry into the murder of Seamus Ludlow and will go ahead with a private inquiry under Mr Justice Henry Barron. 

This information was conveyed personally by Mr Michael McDowell, the Attorney General. The Ludlow family has been given a draft terms of reference for such a private inquiry, similar to that for the ongoing private Barron inquiries into the Dublin/Monaghan and Dundalk bombings.

Mr McDowell  has been reassured that the Ludlow family's position regarding the private Barron Inquiry has not altered since their previous unsatisfactory meeting with Mr John O'Donoghue, the Minister for Justice. 

Mr McDowell, representing the Government, wanted the Ludlow family to accept this proposal with the understanding that they could ultimately reject its findings and renew their demand for a public inquiry.

Mr McDowell argued that a lot has now changed since the British and Irish Governments signed their Weston Park Agreement, though he did not elaborate in any great detail exactly what had been agreed. He confirmed that No Public Inquiry will be held by the Government in advance of the Barron private inquiry and he hoped that the Ludlow family could be persuaded to give their approval, though the private inquiry would go ahead anyway without it.

The meeting at the AG's Office, Government Buildings, Dublin, was altogether a different affair from the cold meeting with the Justice Minister in 2001. Mr McDowell was firm, though also  courteous, and friendly towards the Ludlow family, and he displayed  the kind of intimate knowledge of the issues involved that was clearly lacking with Mr O'Donoghue.

Once again the Ludlow family delegation was accompanied by their esteemed legal representative James MacGuill, solicitor, Dundalk, and by Jane Winter, Director of British Irish Rights Watch, London, who had kindly flown over especially for the meeting and caught a return flight later that evening.

The Ludlow family and their representatives were very disappointed that Mr McDowell had called them together to hear nothing new, just a restatement of proposals that were rejected in 2001. It had been hoped that in the intervening months  the authorities would have thought again about their unacceptable proposals.

Mr McDowell was politely asked to convey to the Government the Ludlow family's request that they think again about going ahead with the private inquiry as envisaged. The Ludlow family put forward their own proposals that, it was hoped, , might result in a more acceptable conclusion all round.

The Ludlow family firmly restated their rejection of the private nature of the Baron Inquiry, and in no way was critical of the integrity of Mr Justice Barron. The still unresolved outcome of the Abbeylara Case, and the apparent undermining of the proposed Joint Oireachtas Committee process - the only "public" part of the Government's proposal - did nothing to recommend the process to the Ludlow family.

Furthermore, given the high degree of corruption that is all too obvious within the Gardai today - with a public inquiry recently announced to look into Gardai abuses against the McBreartry family and other incidents in Donegal - there could be no confidence in the Gardai's giving full disclosure of relevant files, documents and truthful answers to Mr Justice Barron.

The Ludlow family has been lied to by elements within the Gardai for nearly 26 years now and there can be little faith in such liars now coming clean in private sessions with Mr Justice Barron. 

See also the Dundalk Democrat of 2 March 2002 for further information; and The Irish News, 23 February 2002: 'Public inquiry needed'.

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28 February 2002 - In her Director's Report for February 2002, Jane Winter, British Irish Rights Watch, made the following comments about her recent visit to Dublin to accompany the Ludlow family at their meeting with the Attorney General:

On 21st February I travelled to Dublin to meet the Irish Attorney General together with the family of Seamus Ludlow, who was murdered in1976, allegedly by northern paramilitaries, some of whom were serving soldiers.  His family are calling for a public inquiry, but the Irish government insists that all that is on offer is a private commission of inquiry similar to that currently looking at the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings.  The problem with that is that the family will not be able to scrutinise the evidence or submissions of police officers and others who have lied about the murder in the past.  It is a matter of great regret that the Irish government, who have been ready to support the calls for public inquiries into murders in Northern Ireland, such as those of Patrick Finucane, Rosemary Nelson and Robert Hamill, is so reluctant to apply the same standards to a murder of one of its own citizens.

See also: Jane Winter cited in The Irish News, 23 February 2002: 'Public inquiry needed'

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2 March 2002 - The local Dundalk Democrat newspaper published an interview with Jimmy Sharkey, a nephew of Seamus Ludlow,  in which he explains the implications of the Dublin government's 21 February refusal to grant a public inquiry. Jimmy gives the Ludlow family's first public reaction to this setback for the campaign for truth and justice for Seamus Ludlow.

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4 March 2002 - In a further development, members of the Ludlow family, accompanied by a representative of MacGuill and Company, solicitors, Dundalk, and Jane Winter, Director, British Irish Rights Watch, London, met with Mrs Nuala O'Loan, Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, and two senior members of her investigations team, in Belfast. Once again, Jane Winter flew over from London that morning especially to support the Ludlow family.

The meeting followed approaches from the Ludlow family's legal representative, who requested that the ombudsman investigate the RUC's conduct of the original murder investigation and other relevant issues (see link below to the Sunday Tribune report of 15 April 2001). The police ombudsman had previously written to the Ludlow family's solicitor on 3 January 2002 stating that she had "detailed files in relation to the investigation, insofar as it was carried out in Northern Ireland by the RUC".

Unfortunately, very little new information emerged from the meeting with Mrs O'Loan, who reported that their investigation left them with more questions than answers regarding the failure to arrest the four prime suspects in 1979.

No fault was found with the RUC's handling of the case, though there were apparent gaps in the file that failed to explain why certain action was not taken at particular times. The ombudsman particularly questioned the role of the gardai in failing to act on the information that was provided by the RUC in 1979!

Some points did emerged which demand further explanation by both forces:

The ombudsman revealed that the RUC first acquired information on the four suspects for Seamus Ludlow's murder, from an unspecified intelligence source, as early as September 1977 - more than a year before this information was passed on to the gardai, on 15 April 1979! No explanation could be found for the RUC's failure to pass the information to the gardai in 1977. The Ludlow family found this revelation to be very disturbing.

The ombudsman could not say if any action was taken by the RUC at that time - whether the suspects were ever arrested, questioned or placed under surveillance - or at any time afterwards. This possible inaction by the RUC was not criticised by the ombudsman's team, because it was not regarded as "their murder" - it was for the gardai to take whatever action was appropriate and it was not their fault that the gardai failed to request assistance in making arrests. Not "their murder" maybe, but certainly their killers since two of them  were serving soldiers of the Crown.

The original Garda murder investigation was effectively shut down on 21 May 1976, just nineteen days after the murder was committed and not quite the three weeks that we have recently been informed of.

Mrs O'Loan directly refuted published claims that the Gardai had searched 1,700 homes during the original murder investigation!

The ombudsman's investigators have established that only one of the three bullets recovered from Seamus  Ludlow's body and clothing remains in existence. This appears to contradict statements made by the gardai to other members of my family. They have been told that the three bullets are still accounted for. The gun was a .38 Smith and Wesson

No new information was available at the time of the four suspects' arrest by the RUC in February 1998. Their arrest was entirely based on information that was available in February 1979 - if, indeed, not in September 1977. Of course, if this intelligence was so strong as to justify four arrests in 1998, we can then justly wonder why they were not arrested in 1979 or earlier than that!

None of the above inspires confidence in the role of the RUC in this sad affair.

See also: Meeting the Police Ombudsman for further information about this meeting with Mrs O'Loan.

See also: The Sunday Tribune, 15 April 2001: O'Loan asked to investigate Ludlow killing

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9 March 2002 - See interview with Ludlow family member Jimmy Sharkey in The Dundalk Democrat where he talks at length about the meeting with the police ombudsman in Belfast.

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11 April 2002 - The Irish Minister for Justice, John O'Donoghue TD,  responded to a Supreme Court judgment in the Abbeylara Case that may, or may not have a bearing on the State's proposal for a Joint Oireachtas Committee investigation into the murder of Seamus Ludlow, following the completion of a private inquiry by Mr Justice Barron.

The Minister has said that he is going to recommend the establishment of a Tribunal of Enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the killing, by an armed Gardai unit, of John Carthy at Abbeylara, County Longford, 2 years ago.

Speaking at the Garda College in Templemore, Mr O'Donoghue said he would recommend the establishment of the tribunal under a High Court judge at the earliest opportunity.

His remarks follow this morning's Irish Supreme Court judgment that the inquiry by an Oireachtas sub-committee could not be resumed. The court upheld an earlier ruling made regarding such inquiries by the High Court, but limited it to this particular case.

The Court decided by a majority of five to two that the Oireachtas could not conduct an inquiry which could result in findings of fact and conclusions adverse to the good name and reputation of those who are not members of parliament.

This includes a finding of unlawful killing against such a person. Mrs Justice Susan Denham said there was no power in the constitution for inquiries of this type.

However, both Mrs Justice Denham and her colleagues considered the High Court decision too wide. It had encompassed all such committee inquiries.

The court has limited its decision to this inquiry. Mr Justice Hardiman said it was impossible to anticipate what issues might arise under legislation which did not exist.

Given that any inquiry into the 1976 murder of Seamus Ludlow will also entail close examination of the Gardai's handling of the murder investigation, their lying to the Ludlow family about IRA involvement and their withholding of important evidence pointing to the guilt of known Loyalists, it remains to be seen if the Abbeylara judgment will impinge upon any inquiry into the Ludlow inquiry.

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17 April 2002 - It was claimed today that the British authorities have provided  Irish judge Mr Justice Henry Barron, investigating, privately,  the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, with an ''enormous amount'' of information. 

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the judge had received an ''enormous amount'' of files and information. 

The details should allow Mr Justice Barron to provide an interim report by the autumn into the 1974 attacks which killed 33 men and women, Mr Ahern said.

Bereaved families and victims of the attacks have been lobbying for months for Britain to hand over security documents to the inquiry.

They accused Britain of stalling on co-operation, fuelling their suspicion that British security services colluded with loyalist bombers to plant the devices on May 17, 1974.

But during Taoiseach's Question Time in Leinster House today, Mr Ahern said a large quantity of documents had now been handed over which would allow Justice Barron to produce an interim report.

However, he added, a preliminary trawl of the documents by the judge suggested that more papers were still needed.

Mr Ahern told the House: "On the issue of Justice Barron I understand he did receive an enormous amount of information, data and files. Whether that will resolve a lot of issues I do not know.

"Certainly he has received the information he asked for and a lot of the records and from that he has highlighted areas where there are gaps and where he wants further information.

"But he is receiving co-operation and there are direct lines of assistance there that were not there.

"That has allowed him to move on very quickly and very speedily to bring us his interim report on the other side of summer," he said.

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30 May 2002 - The lawyer acting on behalf of the Ludlow family has made submissions to the Irish Attorney-General regarding a new inquest in relation to the case of  Seamus Ludlow. It will be remembered that the original inquest of 19 August 1976 was unsatisfactory in that it went ahead without any members of the Ludlow family or their legal advisers being informed in time to be present and because there was no examination of the forensic and ballistics evidence which might have helped clarify important questions which remained unanswered.

The Ludlow family feel that a new inquest could help rectify many faults that were apparent in the original, as well as take advantage of the new information that has come to light in recent times.

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14 June 2002 - Jane Winter, Director, British Irish Rights Watch (BIRW), London, has  just updated BIRW's independent Report on the Death of Seamus Ludlow. The influential Report was published originally in February 1999. 

A copy of the new BIRW Report, along with the documentary evidence on which it relies,  has been sent  to Mr Justice Henry Barron, the Irish judge who leads an Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk Bombings as well as the murder of Seamus Ludlow. 

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27  June 2002 - Members of the Ludlow family travelled to Dublin for the first of a series of meetings with Mr Justice Henry Barron, who is conducting a private inquiry into the Seamus Ludlow murder on behalf of the Dublin government.

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Latest Revised: July 12, 2005.


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Revised: July 12, 2005 .