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




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The Phoenix, Vol. 23, No. 19, 23 September - 6 October 2005:

Ludlow Murder Cover-Up

The long-delayed second inquest two weeks ago (ordered by Attorney General, Rory Brady, after a British-Irish Human Rights Watch report) into the killing of Seamus Ludlow brings an end to another chapter in a bizarre saga which is not yet over. The inquest reached an expected verdict, but relatives remain rightly unsatisfied. Mr Justice Henry Barron had included the killing in a separate module of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings inquiry. His report, which has been in the Taoiseach's office for nearly a year, has yet to be published.

Ludlow, a 47-year-old rural bachelor, was found shot dead in a ditch near the border in May 1976. Garda Special Branch detectives claimed he had been shot by the IRA, implying he had been an informer. The IRA assured his family this was untrue. The killing  came amid a flurry of mystery assassinations and SAS activity which included repeated covert incursions into Louth. A week after Ludlow died eight SAS men were charged at the Special Criminal Court with various arms ofences. (They were slapped on the wrist and returned home).

For years locals believed the SAS had shot Ludlow, mistaking him for a named IRA activist who lived nearby. But slowly the real story emerged, first from friendly Garda officers, from the RUC, from a retired senior SAS officer and finally in the Sunday Tribune. from a Red Hand Commando gunman, now in Birmingham, who had been on the murder team.

Ludlow had been shot by a British counter-insurgency loyalist proxy gang based in Newtownards and controlled by the MRF (Military Reaction Force) - forerunners of the notorious FRU (Force Research Unit). They had been tasked with killing a Catholic (since deceased) who had ostensibly gone on the run after weapons were discovered near his Co. Down home. This individual was in fact an MRF agent sent south to infiltrate the IRA. Given a choice he couldn't refuse, he became an IRA double agent. The loyalist proxy gang (led by a UDR officer) failed to locate him in Dundalk and murdered the innocent Ludlow on the way back to base.

All this, 29 years on, is so much water under the bridge, but what gives it a contemporary interest is the revelation, under inquest cross-examination by former Det Inspector John Courtney, that the RUC provided him with the killers' names through an informer in the pseudo-gang. Courtney told coroner, Ronan Maguire, that he passed this information to Garda Intelligence C3 (now CSB). His request for permission to follow it up was refused. The "man in charge (at C3) would not do anything about it," he told the coroner.

For years, a suspicion has existed among G2 (Defence Force Intelligence) officers that Britain recruited spies in Garda Intelligence. They offer this explanation for the strange things uncovered during the Barron investigation, where 23 files were found to be missing and the investigation of the biggest mass killing in State history was wound up after six weeks. Their suspicions have been supported by a series of independent revelations since 1984 by former British military intelligence officers and defecting MI5 men.

If this is the case it begs the question: why is Garda HQ not moving to disprove thsee claims? Coroner Maguire was allowed to see a Garda internal inquiry into the Ludlow case only on condition that he did not disclose its contents. What is there to hide after all this time? Could it be that a full investigation of the Ludlow affair by a public inquiry will discover how easily the unaccountable and unsupervised Garda State security system (C3-CSB) can be suborned at present by a financially powerful organsation like MI5.


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