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Justice at last for the forgotten victims of sectarian murder in Dundalk

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"We have waited a very long time just to get this far. It's not over yet. We will keep going until there is justice" 

- Maura McKeever, daughter of the late Jack Rooney

Photograph: The late Mr. Hugh Watters, a self-employed tailor, aged 60, who was murdered by the loyalist bombing of Dundalk, 19 December 1975.Photograph:The late Mr. Jack Rooney, a council worker, aged 60, who was murdered by the loyalist bombing of Dundalk, 19 December 1975.             Seamus Ludlow (47), Thistlecross, Mountpleasant, who was shot dead by Loyalists near Dundalk in May 1976.           

                       

The Dundalk Bombing Campaign's Links To Other Bereaved Families' Search For Truth And Justice.

 

The  Watters and Rooney families, relatives of the murdered victims of the Loyalist car bombing of Kay's Tavern, in Dundalk, are encouraged by the strides being made by the Ludlow family of Mountpleasant, just north of Dundalk, and others in the border area, and beyond, who are also searching for truth and justice in their own individual cases. 

Seamus Ludlow (photographed above, centre) was just one of many forgotten victims of the sectarian Loyalist murder campaign in the border area during the 1970s and his family has shared the Rooney and Watters families' sense of abandonment at the hands of the Gardai and a state that seemed to look the other way. 

Since his foul murder by Red Hand Commando and Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) killers on 2nd. May 1976, the Ludlow family uniquely had to endure the added pain of a smear campaign that blackened the good name of the innocent victim. Of all the victims of Loyalists in the border area only Seamus Ludlow was falsely dismissed as an informer. Only Seamus Ludlow was falsely alleged to be a victim of the IRA.

The families of many victims of Loyalist murder gangs during the 1970s in the border area are now organising under the banner of the Border Relatives Group and are helping each other. Also present was journalist Joe Tiernan, whose book on the Loyalist murder gangs in the border area was published in December 2003 .

The launch of the Border Relatives Group.Photograph: The launch of the Border Relatives Group. Among those present were relatives of Seamus Ludlow, Jack Rooney and Hugh Watters. Joe Tiernan sits at extreme left.                                   

The Border Relatives Group was launched in Dublin in October 1999. It was a timely coming together of five families of victims of Loyalist attacks along the border, mainly in Louth and Monaghan, throughout the 1970s. The attacks, in which four people died and 34 people were injured, were carried out by known Loyalists from Down and Armagh, none of whom have ever been charged.

The Border Relatives Group announced that it would work closely with Justice for the Forgotten, the group representing the relatives of victims and the survivors of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974.

While the new group welcomed the Dublin authorities' interest and cooperation with various families, they had reservations about the prospect of the private Hamilton inquiry that had recently been announced in relation to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

Speaking at the new group's press conference were Maura McKeever, Gerard Watters, Jimmy Sharkey, Anna McEnaneney, and Peter O'Connor, all of whom had lost relatives to the Loyalists' attacks. Also present was a journalist, who had done so much to help unmask the Garda conspiracy to cover-up the true facts about the murder of Seamus Ludlow in May 1976.

Many of these cases are coming to the fore once more, particularly since recent revelations from a former RUC Special Branch Detective Sergeant John Weir who was imprisoned for his part in the sectarian murder of William Strathearn at Aghoghill, County Antrim, in April 1977.

Weir has revealed the existence of a conspiracy within the RUC, which enabled members of that force and the UDR to collude and participate with UVF killers, led by the infamous "Jackal" Robin Jackson, now deceased, from the Portadown area in murderous sectarian gun and bomb attacks along the border and as far south as Dublin.

John Weir is alleging the presence or active participation of named RUC and UDR personnel at many Loyalist attacks during the 1970s, and none of the perpetrators have ever been brought to justice for any of these crimes. His list of attacks includes:

The Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 17 May 1974, when 33 people were killed and many others seriously injured, involved at least one serving RUC officer whose home was used for assembling the bombs, and the explosives were supplied by a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment, who had links to British Military Intelligence.

The murder of two Gaelic football supporters at Tullyvallen, near Newtownhamilton, County Armagh, in August 1975.

A gun and bomb attack at Donnelly's Bar, Silverbridge, County Armagh, on 19 December, 1975, which killed three people: Michael Donnelly, the bar owner's fourteen-year-old son; and two customers, Patrick Donnelly (aged 24) and Trevor Bracknell (aged 32). Several others were seriously injured, including one woman who was shot in the head and a man who was shot in the back.

On the same night as the Silverbridge attack a car bomb exploded outside Kay's Tavern, in Dundalk, killing two men and injuring several more. The dead were Hugh Watters  and Jack Rooney.

The 4 January 1976 shooting of the three Reavey brothers at Whitecross, John Martin (aged 24), Brian (aged 22) who both died instantly, and Anthony (aged 17) who died from his injuries on 30 January 1976.

A car bomb explosion at Castleblaney on 7 March 1976, in which Patrick Mohan, a farmer, was killed as he stepped out of his own vehicle.

Though the murder of Seamus Ludlow on 2 May 1976 does not appear in the former RUC detective sergeant's list of sectarian attacks along the border (those that he and his colleagues are alleged to have been involved in), it is clear that the Ludlow murder has many points in common with the above.

At least two of the alleged perpetrators of Seamus Ludlow's murder were serving member's of the UDR and a third is alleged to have been an agent, perhaps for RUC Special Branch. Similarly, no person has ever been brought to justice for the Ludlow murder, even though prime suspects were identified many years ago.

Links established between the Rooney, Watters and Ludlow families and other families who lost loved ones to Loyalist murder gangs on both sides of the border did not wither during the months following the foundation of the Border Relatives Group. Indeed, efforts to establish truth and justice were intensified.

An important act of solidarity between the Watters, Rooney and Ludlow families and other relatives' groups occurred on 13 June 2000, when they supported the issuing of a joint press statement by Justice for the Forgotten, the group that represents most of the survivors and victims' families of the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

The previous week Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had called for an independent public inquiry into the sectarian mob murder of Robert Hamill in Portadown, a crime that was committed under the very noses of an RUC patrol that sat close by and did absolutely nothing to save the innocent nationalist victim's life. On 8 June, when interviewed by RTE's Morning Ireland, former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds supported Mr. Ahern's call, expressing also the need for a process of public accountability that was open and transparent and expressed concern that no inquest would be held into the Hamill murder.

The joint statement issued on behalf of the Dublin bombing campaigns (of 1972, 1973 and 1974), the Dundalk bombing campaign and the Ludlow family campaign, welcomed the Taoiseach's call for public inquiries into the murders of Robert Hamill, and the eminent human rights lawyers Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, as well as his support for the ongoing Bloody Sunday Saville Inquiry. 

The joint statement (signed by Maura McKeever and Margaret English on behalf of the Rooney and Watters families) also welcomed Mr. Reynolds' remarks, but, it continued: 

"their calls for public inquiries into atrocities committed outside this jurisdiction ring rather hollow when compared with their continued reluctance to hold public inquiries in this jurisdiction into the murders of our loved ones who died in equally tragic and controversial circumstances".

The joint statement went on to ask the media to "challenge the Taoiseach and all politicians who express support for inquiries outside this jurisdiction to account for the glaring anomaly of their failure to address the demands of victims in this State."

Almost a year after the foundation of the Border Relatives Group, at a meeting in Crossmaglen, organised by the Derry-based Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), victims' relatives and survivors of several attacks gathered again to hear of dramatic new evidence of state collusion in at least 32 attacks involving 87 murders (including 2 pregnant women) on both sides of the border. There have been no convictions in 22 of the cases.

The meeting, attended by Maura McKeever (representing the Rooney family) and Jimmy Sharkey (representing the Ludlow family), heard Paul O'Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre, reveal that a senior serving RUC officer - a chief superintendent -  who worked in the area at the time had come forward and had met with the Silverbridge families on several occasions. The officer was a member of the RUC's Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in south Armagh and he was based in Newry at that time.

Paul O'Connor claimed that the senior officer had confirmed the Silverbridge families' suspicions by saying that he believed "security force" members were directly involved in that attack - but could not be charged due to the lack of evidence. This revelation corroborates the above mentioned statement that was previously made by former RUC member John Weir.

It should also be remembered that, according to Mr. Weir, this was the same gang that was responsible for the murderous car bombing of the Kay's Tavern public house, at Crowe Street, Dundalk, which killed Jack Rooney and Hugh Watters, and injured many others, in Dundalk that same evening.

It is now alleged that the senior RUC officer has suggested that "permutations of the same gang" were suspected of involvement in a series of other killings in the area during the same period, again confirming the evidence supplied by John Weir.

For further information on this Pat Finucane Centre meeting at Crossmaglen, and the Centre's research into this gang's activities, please visit the following page on the PFC website:  "Collusion in the south Armagh-mid Ulster area during the 1970s",  

This new page delves deeper into allegations of British Army and RUC involvement in loyalist gun and bomb attacks during the 1970s -  including the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings and Silverbridge. The new page also includes an extensive article from the Irish News, Monday 16 October 2000. 

See also Alleged Collusion on this site.

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Last edited: 16 July 2006 10:43:19   

 Visit the Ludlow family's website.

Copyright 2003 the Rooney, Watters and Ludlow families. All rights reserved.
Revised: July 16, 2006 .