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

 

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The Irish Independent, 4 November 2005:

Security concerns 'halted murder pursuit'

Tom Brady
Security Editor

A RELUCTANCE to give security concessions to the RUC probably influenced a Garda decision not to pursue named suspects for the murder of Seamus Ludlow 26 years ago.

A commission of inquiry into his death, headed by Mr Justice Henry Barron, found that the decision to abandon plans to interview the suspects outside of the State was taken at a high level in the Garda.

The judge's report, published yesterday, said only one credible explanation had been offered for the decision - that it had been taken to avoid a scenario where gardai might feel obliged to reciprocate by allowing RUC officers to attend interviews of suspects in the State.

The inquiry found that the crucial decision was probably taken by the then deputy commissioner in charge of operations, Laurence Wren. It was likely that he would have discussed the move with other senior gardai and possibly senior officials from the Department of Justice.

Seamus Ludlow, a 47-year-old forestry worker from Thistle Cross, Dundalk, Co Louth, was killed on May 2, 1976, when, after accepting a lift in a car, he was shot three times and his body dumped in a laneway near his house.

A second garda investigation, carried out in 1996, established that the RUC had given the names of four suspects, including a corporal in the Ulster Defence Regiment, to the gardai in 1979 and had offered to arrange interviews with two of the suspects, but the offer was not taken up.

As a result of this 1996 discovery, the gardai contacted the RUC and the suspects were arrested in 1998. They were released and a file sent to the Northern Ireland DPP, who decided against any charges.

The Barron report stressed that decisions taken in 1976 should be viewed in the context of the times. "The period 1976-80 was one of huge turmoil.

"Deep divisions and distrust existed, not only between the nationalist and unionist communities in Northern Ireland," the report noted, "but also between the governments of the United Kingdom and this State."

The inquiry was told the British government had been pressing for greater co-operation on three security-related matters: hot pursuit across the Border, permission for RUC officers to question suspects in the State, and overflights by British military aircraft.

"Those three issues evoked strong reactions among ordinary people in this State and such popular opposition was inevitably reflected in the policies and attitudes of the Gardai and successive governments," the report added.

However, in a letter sent less than three weeks ago, former Commissioner Wren warned the inquiry that he had no intention of accepting its conclusions about his supposed activities.

"If the report is eventually published as it now stands, I will be compelled to take corrective action to clear my name," he said.

In the report Mr Justice Barron highlighted the difficulties he faced in trying to establish the truth of what had happened 28 years ago :

* Filing records were incomplete;

* Documents had been lost, destroyed or misplaced;

* Key witnesses were dead and others were gravely ill;

* Others were unable to remember anything about the case.

But the report found that Mr Ludlow had been the victim of a random, sectarian killing by loyalist extremists. There had been no evidence to suggest he was known to his attackers or had any republican connections or sympathies.

The Barron report will now be examined by a sub committee of the Oireachtas Committee on Justice and public hearings will begin in mid-January.

I Top I I Barron Report is Published I

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Revised: November 20, 2005