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




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The Irish Examiner, 4 November 2005:

Report critical of handling of Ludlow case

By Shaun Connolly

Political Correspondent

GARDAÍ failed to pursue the prime suspects in the sectarian murder of Seamus Ludlow for fear it would set a precedent for RUC inquiries in the Republic. A report into the 1976 killing, issued by the Oireachtas Justice Committee last night, named the four men suspected of carrying out the abduction and shooting and pointed to garda failures in handling the investigation.

The probe by Justice Henry Barron names Deputy Commissioner Laurence Wren as the one who "most probably" made the decision to stop officers acting on information received from the RUC in 1979 and travelling to the North to interview the four men.

The report states it was likely he did this after discussing it with other senior gardaí and possibly the Justice Department.

The probe which was handed to the Government 13 months ago quotes former Garda Commissioner Patrick Byrne saying senior garda management was at fault for not investigating the four suspects due to pressure of work.

Justice Barron revealed his job was made more difficult because of the number of "lost, destroyed and misplaced" documents relating to the case.

The decision not to allow officers to travel to the North was taken at a time of heightened tension between London and Dublin, the inquiry noted.

The report states the most credible reason for the failure to act was: "It was done in order to avoid a situation where gardaí might feel obliged to reciprocate by allowing RUC officers to attend interviews of suspects in the State."

Fear that gardaí might be targeted by Republicans if they were seen to "cooperate" with the RUC was also put forward as a reason.

The report states that Dundalk forestry worker Mr Ludlow was picked up in a car in May 1976 by James Fitzsimmons, 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," it said.

The report makes no clear findings about allegations by the Ludlow family of collusion by police forces on both sides of the Border.

Mr Ludlow's nephew, Jimmy Sharkey, reiterated his family's call for an independent public inquiry with powers to compel key witnesses.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell said he hoped the report "would go some way towards alleviating" the family's distress.

An Oireachtas justice sub-committee is to hold public hearings in mid-January on the report and deliver its findings in March.

The Garda press office said last night: "An Garda Síochána acknowledges that there were issues in the original investigation carried out some 30 years ago.

"In recent years, gardaí have taken whatever actions were available to right the situation and, in this regard, cooperated fully with the Barron and other enquiries and will continue to do so." 

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The Irish Examiner, 4 November 2005:

'We think this goes right to Cabinet level'

by John Breslin

The family of Seamus Ludlow believes political decisions taken at the highest level led to a block being placed on any further investigation into the 1976 murder.

Gardai had the names and details of the four men, two of them members of the British security forces, in January 1979.

Preliminary arrangements were made to interview at least one of them but nothing further happened.

Jimmy Sharkey, Mr Ludlow's nephew, said what was new in the report was seeing in black and white suspicions that the family have held for years.

"We suspected it had been suppressed at a very high level. But we don't think it stops at Lawrence Wren," said Mr Sharkey.

"He was only doing what he was told. We think this goes right to Cabinet level."

Mr Justice Barron cites various reasons why gardai did not pursue the suspects and sit in on interviews.

In part, there was a fear the Irish Government would be forced to buckle under the pressure from the British for "greater co-operation", including allowing RUC officers to travel south to interview republican suspects.

However, Mr Sharkey goes further, claiming there must have been some agreement at the highest political level to "close the lid" on murders and atrocities that took place for a period during the 70s.

"There were mysterious murders and bombings and it all happened from 1973 to 1977. This is not just about the murder of Seamus Ludlow, this has ramifications for the Dublin/Monaghan bombings and others," said Mr Sharkey.

The family does not believe the RUC were greatly interested in pursuing the four main suspects, one of whom is suspected of being an agent. "I doubt it very much," said Mr Sharkey.

While the RUC did hand over the names and details, it was 19 months after the Northern security forces first knew them, at a time when pressure for co-operation was at its height.

Preliminary arrangements were made for gardai to interview Paul Hosking. However, when there was no movement from the south, the RUC did not make any attempt to interview the suspects.

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Revised: November 19, 2005 .