The Murder of Seamus Ludlow in County Louth, May 1976. Towards a public inquiry?
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.
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:
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:
Regarding the possibility of reopening the murder investigation, the Oireachtas sub-committee' Report further recommends:
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:
On the issue of collusion the sub-committee commented that it felt the following issues are important:
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 differences 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 I
Find below links to excerpts of the transcript from the first day of hearings before the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on Justice:
SUPPORT THE SEAMUS LUDLOW APPEAL FUNDBank of Ireland 78 Clanbrassil Street Dundalk County Louth Ireland
Account No. 70037984