The Murder of Seamus Ludlow in County Louth, May 1976. Towards a public inquiry?
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Ed Moloney Interviewed.
Ed Moloney, northern Editor with the Dublin Sunday Tribune newspaper, was interviewed for "Loose Talk", about the Seamus Ludlow killing, at 10.45am on the local independent LMFM radio station on 2 May 2001. LMFM broadcasts principally in the counties of Louth and Meath but it can be heard in neighbouring counties on both sides of the border.
Here is an edited account of that interview:
LMFM: As reported in LMFM's News, the family of Seamus Ludlow, who was killed by Loyalists in 1976, have contacted the North's Police Ombudsman on the issue. We are joined now by Sunday Tribune Northern Political Editor Ed Moloney, who has covered the murder extensively over the years. Ed, Good Morning to you.
Ed Moloney: Good Morning.
LMFM: The family have contacted Nuala O'Loan. What can she do in her role as Police Ombudsman?
Ed Moloney: Well, it's difficult to know because this killing of Seamus Ludlow and the various police investigations all happened a long time ago and it is not entirely clear whether she has the power to delve that far back into the past to find what actually happened with the RUC investigation, and I understand she has replied more or less in those terms, but is going to see if there is anything she can do nevertheless.
If she was allowed to go back and look at the files, and assuming that she had access, full access, to all the files then it would possibly make a very interesting story indeed because one of the prime reasons that there is so much suspicion surrounding Seamus Ludlow's death is that it is now beyond doubt that the RUC Special Branch knew so many years ago the names and identities of the people who killed Seamus Ludlow, and in one instance told one of the people who were involved in the Seamus Ludlow killing that they knew all this information, that they should forget about it, as it was quote "political".
And that all raises suspicions that the killer, the person, maybe, who pulled the trigger on Seamus Ludlow was being protected. He was a well known Loyalist gunman. he boasted about lots of killings. He's boasted about being questioned, for example, about the killing of Maura Drumm, the Vice President of Sinn Fein, who was shot dead in a hospital in Belfast not that long after Seamus Ludlow was killed. he was active in a group called the Red Hand Commandos. He appears to have killed lots of people. He fled to England some time ago. Loyalist sources say that he fled because they found out that he was an informer.
And this is all raising the possibility that this guy was, maybe, going around, in the same way as allegations have been made in relation to the Pat Finucane killing, given a license to kill and, maybe, working for the intelligence community in Northern Ireland.
LMFM: So, in reality, one wouldn't be too confident, given the fact that this guy has gone protected for so long, that anything would come out of Nuala O'Loan's investigation.
Ed Moloney: Well, I'm saying that's what's there to find out. Whether she's capable of finding hat out, and what I mean by "capable" is legally capable. Whether she has the power to delve into those files is yet to be really established. But, you know, it's going to be a bit of a test for her because the Seamus Ludlow case is a very important case and it deals with what appears to be a murky period in cross-border security co-operation.
And what I think is puzzling a lot of people is that the authorities protest their innocence. They say, you know, that there is nothing to hide here. Well, if there is nothing to hide then come out and show us the evidence. I mean, you know, if I accused you of an offence and you knew you were innocent, you'd want the TV cameras, you know, into your bedroom, into your house, to show all the evidence you have to demonstrate your innocence, yet the Ahern government in Dublin is behaving in quite the opposite way.
Theyv'e set up a private. secret inquiry. They were even going to exclude the Ludlow case to begin with but they were pressurized into including that. There would be no access to files, no public interrogation of the sort that we are seeing in Dublin Castle. And which, incidentally, we may also see in relation to the Arms Trial. There may be some sort investigation into that. That happened, you know, before Seamus Ludlow. It only deals with the alleged doctoring of a document. This was a man's life, you know, this is much more important.
LMFM: Is there a likelihood, Ed, that we could see a situation where Nuala O'Loan could be warned off having anything to do with this? What kind of person is she? Is she her own person?
Ed Moloney: She's not really that very well known. I mean, to be honest with you, I would have put her into the category of the great and the good, that is, people who are appointed by the British to sensitive positions because they are really not going to cause a great deal of trouble.
Now, that may be doing her a disservice, but her husband is in the SDLP, but he is in the branch of the SDLP that is so close to the Alliance Party that it is almost indistinguishable from the Alliance Party. They have a very, sort of, moderate, middle of the road attitude which translates also into not causing too many waves, and a lot of people suspect that that is why she was chosen to do the job.
Well, it is up to her to prove them wrong and the importance of Seamus Ludlow and other cases is that it is a bit of a test for her, and, so far, from what one is hearing, she appears to be approaching the job, the general job of being Police Ombudsman with a commitment to try and prove herself to be somewhat different than attempts in the past.
LMFM: In other words she is trying to search out the truth.
Ed Moloney: Well, that's the impression so far, but it's very very early days. You know, she hasn't come up against a real test yet. The real test is when she goes to the Special Branch and she says "I want a file on X, Y and Z", and then, as they have said so many times to people like John Stalker and others, who are much more formidable figures than Nuala O'Loan, go and tell her to take a running jump.
What happens then? That's the crucial point, and Seamus Ludlow may be one of those cases.
LMFM: Alright, we will leave it there. Ed Moloney, thanks for joining us this morning. Good morning to you.
Ed Moloney: OK
LMFM: That's Ed Moloney there, Sunday Tribune Northern Political Editor.
In a related development, on 4 March 2002, members of the Ludlow family, once again accompanied by Jane Winter of BIRW, met with Mrs Nuala O'Loan and her investigations team in Belfast.
Among a number of surprising revelations was the fact that the RUC first became aware of the Loyalist killers' identities and other substantive information as early as 1977 and that, for reasons not yet specified, this information was withheld from the gardai until 1979.
It was also revealed that there was no new information on file at the time of the four arrests in February 1998, and that the arrests were based solely on the information that had been available in 1979 - or was that 1977?
Mrs O'Loan also confirmed that the original Garda murder investigation in 1976 was abandoned after only 19 days - not quite the three weeks that the family had just recently learned.
No information could be provided to account for the RUC's failure to pass the information on the gardai before 1979, nor could it be shown that the RUC did anything at all with this information. The Ludlow family was not at all impressed by this apparent failure of the RUC to apprehend or take any action at all against the killers of Seamus Ludlow.
The Ludlow family does not share the ombudsman's belief that the RUC behaved properly in this case. The shameful and inexplicable failure of the gardai to act with the information they received in 1979 in no way excuses the RUC's inaction.
For more detailed information about this meeting with Mrs O'Loan and her investigating officers at the Police Ombudsman's office please visit our new page at Meeting the Police Ombudsman.
See interview with Ludlow family member Jimmy Sharkey in The Dundalk Democrat, 9 March 2002.
See also :The Sunday Tribune, 15 April 2001: O'Loan asked to investigate Ludlow killing