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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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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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 e little faith in such liars now coming clean in private sessions with Mr Justice Barron. 

See above for latest reports on the progress of Mr Justice Barron's request for the handover by the British of vital intelligence documents to help him reach conclusions in his private inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan lara 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 above for latest reports on the progress of Mr Justice Barron's request for the handover by the British of vital intelligence documents to help him reach conclusions in his private inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 17 May 1974, which  caused the deaths of 33 people.

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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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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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

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2 December 2001 - Belfast journalist Ed Moloney referred briefly to the Ludlow family's refusal to accept the private Barron inquiry into the murder of Seamus Ludlow on the grounds of its inadequacy, in his article  "Long List of those who want no Finucane Inquiry", that featured in the Dublin Sunday Tribune newspaper.

The Sunday Tribune report begins:

Amid the calls for a public inquiry into the 1989 assassination of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane last week few people noticed that the mechanism chosen to deal with the scandal - the appointment of a judge to decide whether to hold a public inquiry - is a device that British prime minister Tony Blair can thank Taoiseach Bertie Ahern for suggesting and the officials in the Republic’s Department of Justice for dreaming up.

The same strategem is being used in the Republic to deal with two festering controversies both of which feature allegations of dirty tricks by British intelligence south of the Border. One is the 1974 bombing of Dublin and Monaghan by Loyalists and the other the 1976 murder of Dundalk man, Seamus Ludlow whose killing by Loyalists is alleged to have been covered up by an unholy alliance of British intelligence and the Garda Special Branch.

A High Court judge, Mr Justice Barron has been appointed to investigate both incidents and must report to the Oireachtas whose members will decide whether a public inquiry should be held. But the ploy has failed to satisfy all the relatives of the victims, whose campaign obliged Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to take the action.

Members of Seamus Ludlow’s family are having nothing to do with the investigation on the grounds of its inadequacy while relatives of the dead of Dublin and Monaghan are said to be increasingly frustrated by the refusal of the British authorities to furnish vital documents to Mr Justice Barron. . .

Please use the link above to access Ed Moloney's full report on the Newshound website. 

See also 17 April 2002 for important developments regarding Mr Justice Henry Barron's request for the British authorities to hand over intelligence documents to help him in his inquiry into the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

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29 November 2001 - The Irish Justice Minister Mr. John O'Donoghue TD gave the following Written Answer to a Dail Question (No. 143) submitted by Mr. Seamus Kirk TD (Louth). Mr. Kirk had asked the Minister if he would consider establishing a commission similar to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, to deal with the murder of Seamus Ludlow. 

Unfortunately, the Minister's statement takes this serious matter no further, with little evidence of any movement at all in Mr. O'Donoghue's thinking regarding a public inquiry. Mr. O'Donoghue replied:

The position in this matter remains as outlined in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 297 on 19th June, 2001.

The Government decided in principle in September 1999 to establish an inquiry into this case 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 the victim or their legal representatives. In the circumstances, it has not so far been possible to progress the matter further. I am however keeping the matter under close review, and I very much hope that the Government will be in a position to proceed with the proposed inquiry as soon as possible.

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28 November 2001 - The following letter appeared in the Irish News. It was sent in response to reports that the British authorities had decided to appoint an international judge to head a private inquiry into the February 1989 murder of the eminent Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane and a number of other selected cases. 

The appointment was made following the dramatic collapse of the trial of the loyalist ex-UDA quarter master and RUC Special Branch agent William Stobie (51) in Belfast following the withdrawal of a vital witness. The proposed private inquiry would begin not later than April 2002.

The letter, from a member of the Ludlow family, who fully supports the demands of the Finucane, Nelson and Hanna families  for full public inquiries into the murders of their loved ones, sought to place on record the demands of other families whose loved ones' murders have been excluded from this private judicial inquiry.

The letter to the Irish News is not a definitive opinion on the proposed private inquiry, which only the Finucane family can give. The Finucane family's opinion came quickly in a press release. The inquiry was seen as "another delaying tactic".

The Ludlow family member's letter reads as follows:

Dear Editor

I have read with interest your report (27 November) of the British  decision to appoint a judge to investigate further allegations of collusion in the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane and others. Your report states:

"The judge would investigate allegations of collusion in the murders of Mr Finucane, Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson, Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan, Lord Justice and Lady Gibson and LVF leader Billy Wright. And would have power to recommend public inquiries where necessary."

There should of course be a full public inquiry into the murder of Mr. Finucane.

While I do not automatically endorse or trust this latest British development, given the well-trodden path of previous flawed investigations, I do wish to address a few brief points to the British authorities. Why stop with the above mentioned cases? 

Why not investigate the obvious collusion involved in the murder of my late uncle Seamus Ludlow, who was killed by UDR and Red Hand Commando personnel inside County Louth on 2 May 1976? Why not also investigate the foul murders of Jack Rooney and Hugh Watters, the victims of the Dundalk bombing of 19 December 1975? 

Further, why not fully cooperate with the ongoing Dublin private Barron Inquiry into the infamous Dublin and Monaghan bombings by finally handing over the long requested security files and documentation that was requested by Mr. Justice Barron several months ago? There is certainly ample reason for investigation of the collusion involved in all these cases and more.

The Ludlow family, blighted by state indifference, on both sides of the border, to the loss of their loved one at the hands of British agents, of course renews its demand for a public judicial inquiry, into both the murder of Seamus Ludlow and the long cover-up and smear campaign that followed, but there seems little evidence here to suggest that Britain has changed its disdainful attitude to the relatives of the victims of its state murder gangs in Ireland.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Donegan.

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27 November 2001 - It is reported that the Dublin government plans to appeal against the Dublin high Court's decision to uphold the Gardai's challenge against the Joint Oireachtas Committee's power to hold an  investigation into the shooting dead of John Carthy, of Abbeylara, in County Longford, in April 2000. It is further reported that Mr. O'Donoghue, Minister for Justice, intends to hold a public inquiry into this controversial incident if the government's appeal fails.

Since Mr. O'Donoghue (at a meeting with him on 23 May 2001) has sought to persuade the Ludlow family to accept the private Barron Inquiry as the best means of investigating the murder of Seamus Ludlow, with his final report eventually being examined before an open hearing of a Joint Oireachtas Committee, the Ludlow family is firmly of the opinion that the minister must now proceed with a full public inquiry on the same basis as the one he apparently has in mind for the Abbeylara inquiry.

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23 November 2001 - In a devastating blow to the Dublin government's proposed plan for a private inquiry and Joint Oireachtas Committee investigation into the 1976 murder of Seamus Ludlow, the three-judge Irish High Court in Dublin, in a landmark decision, has sharply  restricted the scope of Oireachtas investigations. 

The Court has upheld a challenge by 36 members of the armed Garda Emergency Response Unit against the conduct of the inquiry into the April 2000 killing of John Carthy in Abbeylara, County Longford. Oireachtas inquiries cannot now make "findings of fact or expressions of opinion" which damage the good name of citizens who are not TDs or senators. 

Thus the gardai responsible for the death of John Carthy remain unaccountable and those gardai who were responsible for covering up the true facts behind the murder of Seamus Ludlow, and protecting his loyalist/UDR killers, are likewise protected from answering questions before a Joint Oireachtas Committee hearing.

This development now makes it imperative that the Dublin government should immediately call into being a public inquiry into the murder of Seamus Ludlow. The Ludlow family can have no faith in a private inquiry process - with or without the now effectively neutered Joint Oireachtas Committee hearing that has been promoted by Mr. John O'Donoghue TD, the Minister for Justice. 

Besides, one only has to examine the limitations of the ongoing private Barron Inquiry that is currently being impeded by the British failure to comply with a request for relevant files and documents, relating to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. The Ludlow family has been implored upon by Mr. O'Donoghue to accept this private inquiry, with the understanding that Mr. Barron has the authority to order a full public inquiry. The Ludlow family remains unconvinced.

The Ludlow family regards this private inquiry process leading to a possible public inquiry as an expensive waste of time - spending tax-payers' money on two inquiries when one was sufficient. It would be much better if the Dublin authorities went ahead now with a full public inquiry.

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13 November 2001 - In a letter to Mr. Bertie Ahern TD, Taoiseach, the Ludlow family's solicitor made a further request for a meeting between Mr. Ahern and the Ludlow family to discuss the present position in relation to the case with a view to progressing matters. Mr. Ahern was reminded that previous meetings with the Minister for Justice did not advance matters.

The Ludlow family had received no response to several previous written requests for a meeting with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

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6 November 2001 - In a letter to Mr. John O'Donoghue TD, Minister for Justice, Dublin, the Ludlow family's solicitor noted that in a letter dated 31st July to Dermot Ahern TD, he had indicated that he was considering how best to progress matters. The Ludlow family had expected to hear from Minister O'Donoghue but have not done so to date, so it was hoped that he might be good enough to respond to this latest communication.

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1 November 2001 - The Ludlow family's solicitor received a highly significant letter from Justice for the Forgotten, the committee representing most of the victims and relatives of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. 

The letter was significant because it was suggested to the Ludlow family by Mr. John O'Donoghue, Minister for Justice, when they met with him recently, that one of the reasons why he could not call for a separate public judicial enquiry in relation to the murder of Seamus Ludlow was that this would disappoint and upset the Dublin/Monaghan families. 

On that occasion the Ludlow family strongly maintained their view that the murder of Seamus Ludlow was an entirely separate case that should be investigated in its own terms and not be tied to any other case no matter how similar. Significantly, the letter from Justice for the Forgotten, as quoted below, shows that the Minister was clearly mistaken. 

Here is what Justice for the Forgotten has to say:

The particular circumstances of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the issues that require examination, in terms of the collation and assessment of information, do not appear to pertain to the murder of Seamus Ludlow. Furthermore, we do not have information suggesting a link between the two atrocities.

It is, and has been for many years, the demand of the bereaved families and survivors that there be a public tribunal of inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. The report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry will be a step along the road to that.

Not only does Justice for the Forgotten not object to a full public inquiry into the murder of Seamus Ludlow, it fully supports the call of the Seamus Ludlow campaign for such an inquiry to be held.

Yours sincerely

For Justice for the Forgotten

Bernie McNally    Phil Lawlor-Watson

Chairperson         Vice-Chairperson

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1 November 2001 - Kevin Ludlow and Jimmy Sharkey, representing the Ludlow family, wrote to Mr. Ruairi Quinn TD (Leader of the Irish Labour Party) requesting a meeting with him as soon as possible to discuss certain matters relating to the murder of Seamus Ludlow. While appreciating that Mr. Quinn has a very busy schedule it was also hoped that he would give the Ludlow family's request his urgent attention. Enclosed for his information was a copy of the excellent independent Report on the murder of Seamus Ludlow that was produced in February 1999 by the eminent human rights organization British Irish Rights Watch (BIRW), London.

On the same date, a letter was also sent to the Dublin Government Minister Dermot Ahern TD (Fianna Fail, Louth) thanking him for his continued support and requesting a meeting with him.

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4 October 2001 - A confidential British police report into the death of Derry man Samuel Devenny - after an horrific RUC beating in his own home - which has remained secret for more than thirty years - has revealed the extent of the assault on the Devenny family on 17 July 1969.

Police Ombudsman Mrs. Nuala O'Loan has presented the Devenny family with the contents of the 1970 Drury report into the death of Mr. Devenny. Earlier in 2001, the Devenny family asked the Ombudsman to carry out an investigation into their father's death - just as the Ludlow family has done regarding the RUC's handling of the Seamus Ludlow case. 

The Ombudsman has yet to conclude her inquiries in the May 1976 Ludlow murder, though she did point out that it may not be within her remit to look so far back. Her handling of the Devenny case may, hopefully, hold out hope that she can also help the Ludlow family get to the truth behind the RUC's handling of their love one's sectarian murder in County Louth.

The Ludlow family takes heart from the fact that Mrs. O'Loan has revealed the contents of the secret Drury Report and that she has upheld the Devenny family's complaint that the RUC has never communicated to them directly about this brutal assault on the late Mr. Devenny - who tragically died three months later - and his family. 

The long suppressed Drury report concluded that four RUC officers knew what happened but were afraid of retribution from their colleagues if they spoke out. No RUC officers were ever charged in relation to this attack and for thirty years the truth - including access to the withheld Drury Report - was denied to the Devenny family.

The Ludlow family applauds the Devenny family's determination to establish the full truth behind the death of their late father.

Further information can be found on the Pat Finucane Centre's website.

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18 August 2001 - The local Dundalk Democrat newspaper featured the following letter, dated 31 July,  from Mr. John O'Donoghue TD, Minister for Justice, Dublin, to fellow Minister Mr. Dermot Ahern TD.

Mr. Dermot Ahern TD
Minister for Social; Community
and Family Affairs
Aras Mhic Dhiarmada
Store Street
Dublin 1

31 July, 2001

Dear Dermot,

I refer again to your further representations (your ref: SC/876) regarding the late Mr. Seamus Ludlow.

The Victims Commissioner, Mr. John Wilson, in his report "A Place and a Name" stated in respect of Mr. Ludlow's case "I am aware of the family's strong wish that the full truth of the case should be brought to light. I am swayed by their argument that a criminal trial will not necessarily bring out the full facts of the case. I recommend that an enquiry should be conducted into this case along the lines of the enquiry into the Dublin/Monaghan bombings."

You will be aware that the Government decided in principle in September 1999 to establish an enquiry 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. This fact was clear from our meeting with them on 23 May last. 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.

With every good wish.

Yours sincerely

John O'Donoghue TD
Minister for Justice, Equality
 and Law Reform

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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 an admirer of the British SAS campaign against what he/she calls "terrorists from both sides", but the last sentence gives the game away. 

This is just  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 anonymous 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 the 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!

As stated previously, the Ludlow family will not accept instruction from those who only insult the memory of an innocent victim of Loyalists, nor has the Ludlow family the slightest interest in the twisted "cruel and unnecessary" opinions of bigots like these!

The hate message reads:

 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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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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31 July 2001 - In a letter to his government colleague Mr. Dermot Ahern TD,  Louth (Minister of Social, Community and Family Affairs), Mr. John O'Donoghue, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, noted that his proposal for a private inquiry which would, he says, "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. This fact was quite clear from our meeting with them on 23 May last."

Mr. O'Donoghue concluded by saying: "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."

See also the full text of this letter as published in the Dundalk Democrat newspaper of 18 August 2001.

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