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




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Publication of the Joint Oireachtas Sub-Committee's report on the murder of Seamus Ludlow.

The Final Report of the Oireachtas sub-committee on the Barron Report into the murder of Seamus Ludlow was published in Dublin on 29 March 2006 by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights.

Seamus Ludlow's relatives present included Kevin Ludlow (brother), Eileen Fox and Nan Sharkey (sisters) and Michael Donegan and Michael Sharkey (nephews). As with the previously published Interim Report (the Barron Report), these Ludlow family members, along with their solicitor James McGuill were given an hour to study the Report's findings before it was published.

Former Garda detective John Courtney gave evidence at the Oireachtas hearings and to Justice Barron. He told how he received the RUC file naming four loyalist suspects in 1979. His evidence conflicts with that of Former Commissioner Wren. The Oireachtas Sub-Committee was unable to resolve that conflict.The Ludlow family had hoped that the oireachtas joint sub-committee, having examined the Barron Report and heard oral evidence from the family and other witnesses, would call for a public inquiry, but such hopes were dashed by a report that instead called for a"commission of inquiry" pursuaint to the Commissions of Investigations Act 2004

Another private inquiry, albeit one with powers to compel attendance of witnesses, powers of entry, and powers to order the discovery and/or the inspection of documents. 

Although it can conduct its investigation in public, where it coinsiders it proper to do so, this is still a private inquiry where the Ludlow family will be denied an active role in aiding the inquiry. The Ludlow family will have no oversight or access to the evidence and witnesses seen by the inquiry. 

See the Ludlow family press release issued in response to this disturbing outcome of the Joint Oireachtas Committee hearings. Ludlow family criticisms also featured in press and national TV reports.

In summary, the Report's recommendations include:

  1. That it should be the express policy of the Sate that, no matter how turbulent the times, the investigation into the murder of a citizen of the State should never be sacrificed for any reason.

  2. That all murder investigations should be conducted with the utmost vigour and that every avenue of investigation is pursued.

On the conduct of the investigation, the Gardai are to put in place specific measures, in line with the Criminal Justice Bill 2004, to ensure that relevant material collected at crime scenes is preserved and documented and that there is an appropriate auditing and oversight mechanism.

See the Ludlow family press release issued in response to this disturbing outcome of the Joint Oireachtas Committee hearings.

A commission of investigation (not a public inquiry) will be established to investigate the following:

  1. Whether the evidence collected at the scene of the murder of Seamus Ludlow in 1976 was available in 1979 and if not, why not?

  2. Why were credible leads given to the Gardai by the RUC not followed up?

  3. Why were the four named suspects not interviewed?

  4. Was there a policy in existence not to interview suspects in the North for crimes committed in the Republic of Ireland?

  5. Was a decision taken not to actively pursue the investigation of the murder of Seamus Ludlow and if so, who took that decision and why?

Regarding the possibility of reopening the murder investigation, the Oireachtas sub-committee' Report further recommends:

  1. That all mechanisms be fully utilised by the Gardai to liaise with the PSNI in respect of the investigation into the murder of Seamus Ludlow.

  2. That the Garda Commissioner appoint a dedicated team of Gardai to re-examine the case in a pro-active manner, to see if there is any possibility of bringing any or all of the four suspects to justice.

  3. That the authorities make full use of all statutory mutial assistance mechanisms and protocols available so that what occurred in the Seamus Ludlow investigation will never happen again.

  4. That a Historical Enquiries Team be established in the Republic of Ireland to investigate unresolved crimes connected with the Troubles and that it have a particular remit to liaise with its counterpart in Northern Ireland.

These recommendations, though welcome, come thirty years too late for the family of Seamus Ludlow who must accept that vital physical evidence: the murdered man's clothing, two of the fatal bullets and some alleged finger-print evidence has been lost or destroyed! These recommendation can only now be helpful to future cases and, if acted upon, should ensure that never again should a murdered person's family have to experience the shameful treatment that was the lot of the Ludlow family!

With regard to the disturbing elements of missing documents or of relevant garda files never brought into existence the Report goes on to recommend a commission of investigation (not a public inquiry) be established to investigate the following:

  1. What documents were created or maintained by An Garda Siochana including security intelligence C3 section in relation to the murder of Seamus Ludlow?

  2. Where are those documents?

  3. If those documents are not available for inspection what is the reason for this?

  4. What documents were created or maintained by the Department of Jusatice (and Departments of An Taoiseach, Foreign Affairs and Defence, in respect of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Security), in relation to the murder of Seamus Ludlow?

  5. Where are those documents?

  6. If those documents are not available for inspection what is the reason for this?

On the issue of collusion the sub-committee commented that it felt the following issues are important:

  1. How and in what circumstances did the Northern Ireland Authorities receive early information on the suspects in the Ludlow murder?

  2. Why did the RUC not expeditiously pass on relevant information regarding suspects in relation to the murder of Seamus Ludlow?

  3. Why and in what circumstances was Kevin Donegan (brother-in-law of Seamus Ludlow) interviewed by the British Army on the day following the funeral?

These latter recommendations appear to miss the important point that this sorry case indicates evidence also of collusion between the Garda and the Irish State with the loyalist/UDR killers of Seamus Ludlow.

The Ludlow family was pleased that the Oireachtas Sub-Committee in its Report conclude that the family have been treated in an appalling manner by the Garda and the State.

In their press release the Ludlow family noted it is clear that the Committee remain deeply troubled by the many unanswered questions in the case. Indeed the Committee have identified 11 key issues which require investigation. The Ludlow Family welcomed the acknowledgement that there are issues of major public importance that remain to be investigated satisfactorily.

However the Ludlow family did not feel that the recommendation by the Committee that a 'commission of investigation' be established is the correct one.

The Ludlow family press release noted there are critical differences between a public Inquiry and the form of commission that is being recommended by the Oireachtas Sub-Committee. Chief among those differencesFormer Garda Commissioner Laurence Wren, who gave evidence to the Oireachtas Justice Sub-Committee. He denied issuing orders for no further investigation in 1979. The Oireachtas report was unable to resolve conflicts between Mr Wren's evience and evidence given by other former garda officers, including John Courtney. are that the work of a public Inquiry is open and transparant and all members of society can observe what transpires. 

It was striking that in the public hearings before the Committee major conflicts in events emerged to the public eye but of course the Committee were powerless to adjudicate on them. These conflicts are a source of significant public concern and the investigation of them should be conducted in public and not in private. 

The issues identified by the Committee as requiring further investigation focus on the discharge of the duties of public office in various quarters. These are, the Ludlow family believe uniquely matters suited to public Inquiry.

A second significant issue is that in a public inquiry the Ludlow family would have a fully accredited role to play in seeing the evidence being given at first hand and testing it by cross examination. Where necessary the Ludlow family could make informed submissions based on the possession of the same facts as the tribunal.

The Ludlow family further noted that Public enquiries uniquely enjoy the confidence of the wider community in a way that private enquiries do not.

This very point was acknowledged by all parties when passing the Dail resolution on 8th March 2006 calling for "the immediate establishment of a full, independent public judicial Inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, as recommended by Judge Cory, which would enjoy the full cooperation of the Family and the wider community throughout Ireland and abroad".

The Ludlow family believe this is the correct test and is the route that should have been recommended by the committee examining the case of Seamus Ludlow. It is acknowledged that a Commission of investigation has the power to recommend the holding of a tribunal of Inquiry but the Ludlow family believe that this step should be taken now in the interest of speed and in recognition of the age profile of the family and all that they have suffered in almost 30 years.

The Ludlow family also stated their concern that it is on the record of the Committee's proceedings that some valuable sources of evidence are only prepared to cooperate with a full public Inquiry and that this vital evidence may not be available to any more limited investigation.

Accordingly the Ludlow family are considering their position as to whether they should participate in a commission of investigation with a view to securing a full public Inquiry or alternatively pursue other avenues.

Disappointing though these recommendations are they will not deter the family in the pursuit of justice.

I Top

Download the Barron Report from the Oireachtas website (pdf file)

Download the Final Oireachtas Sub-Committee Report on the murder of Seamus Ludlow from the Oireachtas website (pdf file)

Find below links to excerpts of the transcript from the first day of hearings before the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on Justice:

Morning session:
10.00 am - Members of the Ludlow family
Chairman's Opening Remarks
James McGuill (Ludlow family solicitor)
Kevin Ludlow (brother of the late Seamus Ludlow)
Mrs Nan Sharkey (sister)
Mrs Eileen Fox (sister)
Michael Donegan (nephew)
Brendan Ludlow (nephew)
Mrs Briege Doyle (niece)
Jimmy Sharkey (nephew)


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Copyright 2006 the Ludlow family. All rights reserved.
Revised: May 01, 2006