The Ludlow family circle reacted with disbelief to
the announcement of a recommendation by Mr. John
Wilson, the Irish
Victims Commissioner, and former Dublin cabinet minister
(pictured below), that any proposed inquiry into the murder of
Seamus Ludlow, like that into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings,
should be held in private, but also that the final report should
not be published.
The Ludlow family wrote restrained letters almost
immediately to the Victims Commissioner and to the Taoiseach
indicating their anger at the outcome of his report. The matter
was then left in the careful hands of the Ludlow family's
This Victims Commissioner's decision, like the
later decision by the Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), of
15 October 1999,
not to prosecute the four Loyalist prime suspects for the murder
of Seamus Ludlow, indicates the reluctance of the authorities on both
sides of the Irish border to face up to the injustice that was
perpetrated against the Ludlow family since the murder of their
The Victims Commission Report, A Place and a Name,
seen here in a screenshot from an Irish independent TV3 20/20 current
affairs programme investigation of the Seamus Ludlow murder, was released at a press conference in Dublin on 5
While members of Justice for the Forgotten,
made up of victims and survivors of the Dublin and Monaghan
atrocity and their supporters, were present at the release of the
report, the Ludlow family was absent, having not been informed
that the announcement was to be made in public. Thus the Dublin
and Monaghan families were able to make their own position clear
in a very public way while the Ludlow family's own objections to
the Wilson Report went unheard. Why was the Ludlow family not
informed and invited to the Launch of this report?
Cynics could argue that, rather like the Seamus Ludlow inquest
in August 1976, here was an occasion where the authorities did not want
the Ludlow family present. The Seamus Ludlow case is particularly
damaging to the Dublin authorities, particularly the Garda and
the Department of Justice, not least because so much is already
known about the killers and the means which were adopted by the
Garda to ensure that they were never caught. Unlike the other
cases where injustice has followed upon atrocity, the Seamus
Ludlow case is the one where specific charges can be laid against
specific Garda officers, and it is the only case where prime
suspects have been arrested and prosecutions still seemed possible in 1999.
While the Ludlow family welcomed the Irish Victims Commission's call
for an inquiry there was great anger at its recommendations that
any inquiry should be held in private and the findings not
published. It was clear to the Ludlow family that the state was intent
upon another cover-up, and that nothing had been learned from the
sorry mess that was created during the 1970s.
The Irish state was
protecting itself in the only way it could, by limiting the
extent to which the Ludlow family and the public at large could
hear the truth about Seamus Ludlow's murder and the subsequent
cover-up. Family members were prompted to ask what dirty secrets
are they trying to protect, and whose reputations are placed
before the absolute need for truth and accountability.
The following are relevant quotes from
the Irish Victims Commissioners Report A
Place and a Name, 5 August 1999.
"British Irish Rights Watch have
recently called for a Public Inquiry into this case. I understand
that a file is now with the DPP in Northern Ireland. The victim's
family, however, make the argument that a Criminal Trial, if one does
take place, will not necessarily bring out the full facts of the case
because it may not be relevant or necessary to do so, particularly if
the accused plead guilty. Some of the matters they would like
investigated relate not directly to the crime itself but to the
investigation of the crime. I find the allegations about the conduct of
certain Gardai Siochana and about the conduct of the investigation
itself, very disturbing."
"Because a file on this case is now with the DPP
in Northern Ireland, I am anxious that no recommendation of mine should
endanger the prosecution of any guilty party. At the same time I am
aware of the family's strong wish that the full truth 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. To avoid compromising any
criminal prosecution, this inquiry should not publish its report until
any prosecution has finished, unless no prosecution has been initiated
before the completion of the enquiry or within twelve months, whichever
is the later."
The Victims Commissioner recommendation of a private inquiry
inspired the ongoing Hamilton-Barron Inquiry,
into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, but he also placed important stress on the
then strong possibility of the Northern Ireland DPP bringing four
Loyalist suspects before the courts in Belfast. This possibility
appeared to be a limiting factor in his recommendation.
This limiting factor was forever removed when the
Ludlow family received the following from W.A.R.
Director, at the DPP's office, dated 15 October
"I write now to advise you that following careful
consideration of the evidence contained in the police investigation file
it has been concluded that there is no reasonable prospect of a
conviction of any person reported therein in respect of the murder of
"Consequently a direction for no prosecution in
the matter has today issued to the Chief Constable."
The Ludlow family was appalled at the Victims Commission's
recommendations but were unable to register their feelings as forcefully as
the Dublin families until the next day when Kevin Ludlow and Jimmy Sharkey
were interviewed for the TV3 news.
This was clearly not the full and independent inquiry
which the Ludlow family had been campaigning for. It looked suspiciously
like another cover-up in the making with the Irish state authorities
prepared to let the Ludlow family know only what they wanted them to know.
There were questions of whether the Ludlow family would have access to the
inquiry, whether they would be present at hearings, whether their lawyers
could subpoena and question witnesses, and would the final report ever be
Certainly, nothing in the subsequent and presently ongoing
Hamilton Inquiry into the Dublin and
Monaghan bombings inspires confidence that the Ludlow family's concerns are
unjustified. Consequently, it too has been rejected and a public inquiry is
The Ludlow family also felt that possible prosecutions in
the Six Counties should not in any way delay publication of any inquiry
report. The killers' and their crime were not what the inquiry (whether
public or private) was specifically about, at least in the minds of the
Ludlow family. The inquiry should concentrate on the circumstances of the
crime on the night in question - what were the Loyalists doing in Dundalk;
where were the usual Gardai checkpoints; and was there state collusion with
The inquiry should also investigate the
conduct of the original investigation by the Gardai in 1976, its hostility
to the Ludlow family, and its unannounced suspension after only three weeks.
It should also concentrate on the smearing of Seamus Ludlow, and on the
Gardai's failure to take action after receiving the RUC file in 1979. The
inquiry should identify those Garda officers, and government officials or
whoever was responsible for these decisions, and it should recommend legal
action to be taken against those who were liable.
The Wilson Report boded ill for the future also in that it
set a poor example for the British authorities in the Six Counties to follow
with regard to the actions of the RUC and the British Army, colluding with
the Gardai, in protecting Seamus Ludlow's UDR/Red Hand Commando
To date, the British authorities in the North have never
responded to the Ludlow family's demands for a public inquiry in the Six
Counties. The Northern Ireland DPP's decision not to prosecute any of the
four loyalist suspects, including the two who made admissions implicating
themselves and others, makes for a very bad precedent in that jurisdiction.
The Ludlow family agree with the comments of Louth County
Councillor Arthur Morgan (Sinn Fein):
"If it is to have any real value, the inquiry must
be held in public. There are vital questions to be answered by State
authorities, including the Garda, the Garda Special Branch in Louth and
Dublin and Irish Army Intelligence."
His party colleague Caoimhghin O Caolain, in a letter to
the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern registered his disappointment at the
recommendation regarding the Dublin-Monaghan and Ludlow cases. Mr. O Caolain
has been a strong supporter of the Ludlow family's campaign. He was a
prominent attendee at the Ludlow family's press conference in Dublin on 18
February 1999 and he has maintained regular correspondence with a member of
In a press release from the Minister for Justice in
Dublin on the Victim Commissioner's Report, A Place and a Name,
it was noted that "interested parties" were invited to "send
their comments on the report" to the Secretary General, Department of
Justice to arrive by 5 November 1999. This press release was promptly passed
to the Ludlow family's solicitor who sent off a letter with the Ludlow
family's comments as requested.
As the Victims Commission was now wound up, having
released its Report, its recommendations were now the responsibility of the
Department of Justice - a development surely not welcomed by the Ludlow
Also obtained by the Ludlow family was a copy of the Irish
Government's 11-page assessment of the British Irish Rights Watch
report on the sectarian murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, which was
sent to the then British secretary of state Mo Mowlam in the North by Liz
O'Donnell, Irish Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, with a covering
letter dated 13 April 1999.
This letter is of significance in that it spells out the
Dublin government's justification in calling for a public inquiry in the
North into the murder of Mr. Finucane. The Ludlow family feels that the
compelling reasons are present also in the Seamus Ludlow case and others.
The minister wrote:
"As the assessment argues, the Finucane case and
the associated allegations of collusion, fulfill the fundamental
requirement of a public inquiry, i.e. that the matter under consideration
is of urgent public interest. The accumulated evidence is sufficient to
give reasonable cause to the public to believe that collusion may have
taken place. Moreover, the allegations in question serve to undermine
confidence in the rule of law and the concept of equality before the law.
In my view, they can only be answered with confidence - one way or the
other - through the mechanism of a public inquiry."
In the Government's assessment of the BIRW Report it is
noted under BASIS FOR A PUBLIC INQUIRY :
"that the term "urgent" should not of
course be taken to mean contemporary - the Saville Inquiry is, after all,
investigating events over a quarter of a century old but which remain a
matter of urgent public interest.. .
"Nor should it be thought that new information is a
requirement for an inquiry. That is to confuse the grounds for reopening a
case before the courts with the purpose of an inquiry. . .
"A crucial question is whether the matter of public
interest can reasonably be seen to justify an inquiry on the basis of
merit alone. Generally inquiries are about matters in which the state or
its agents (whether individuals or bodies) are believed to have been
involved either through acts of omission or commission. The value of an
inquiry in terms of the society as a whole is that it seeks to locate
where culpability lies and thus establish a basis on which society,
through its democratic system, can set about rectifying identified faults.
Such faults can arise either through negligence (e.g. Dunblane) or because
of systematic problems (such as institutional racism in the London
Metropolitan Police in the Lawrence case)."
Here the Dublin Government is lecturing the British about
doing the decent thing in Belfast yet they now refuse to take their own
considered advice in Dublin. It is a case of do as we say, not as we do. The
Ludlow family is satisfied that the Seamus Ludlow murder, the Dublin,
Monaghan, Dundalk and Castleblaney bombings and many other Loyalist
atrocities in the Republic exactly fit the criteria for a public inquiry as
laid down in the above statements from the Dublin government itself.
The Ludlow family, and the families of the late Jack
Rooney and Hugh Watters, victims of the Dundalk
bombing of 19 December 1975, added their support to a press
release issued by Margaret Urwin, Secretary of Justice for the
Forgotten, on 13 June 2000, in response to Mr. Ahern's, and also his
predecessor Albert Reynolds', recent statements calling for public inquiries
in the Six Counties.
The statement commented that their:
"calls for public inquiries into atrocities committed
outside this jurisdiction ring rather hollow when compared with
their continued reluctance to hold public inquiries in this
jurisdiction into the murders of our loved ones who died in equally
tragic and controversial circumstances.
"Mr. Reynolds' expression of concern into the failure to hold an
inquest in the Robert Hamill case might carry more conviction if he
was to express equal concern at the failure of this State to
conclude inquests in the cases of the Dublin bombings of 1972, 1973
"We ask that journalists, in future, would challenge the Taoiseach
and all politicians who express support for inquiries outside this
jurisdiction to account for the glaring anomaly of their failure to
address the demands of victims in this State."
Mr. John Wilson, the former Victims Commissioner, appeared to
move his position regarding the Seamus Ludlow inquiry when he was
interviewed by Conor McAuley for the UTV
Live Insight television current affairs programme,
entitled "State Silence" which was broadcast on Monday 25 October
In the course of his interview Mr. John Wilson appeared to say
that he had always intended that the family of Seamus Ludlow and its legal
representative would have full access to the inquiry judge and that they
would be present at the inquiry. This is not expressly stated in the Victims
Commissioner's report nor was it so stated by the Taoiseach Mr. Bertie Ahern when
he announced the intention to hold an inquiry.
Mr. John Wilson went further when he was interviewed by
Elaine Keogh for the Irish Independent newspaper of
8 November 1999. Mr. Wilson is quoted as having said that he would support
the extradition of the four men allegedly involved in Seamus Ludlow's
murder. The Ludlow family would agree, though it should also be pointed out
that this murder in Dundalk should never have been a matter for the RUC and
the Northern Ireland DPP in the first instance.
Clearly, now that the northern DPP, like the RUC, has
failed to bring charges against any of the loyalist suspects, there is every
reason for the Dublin authorities to revisit their decision on a private
inquiry with the final report remaining private.
There were indications that the Dublin authorities may
have been coming around to this view, as indicated by An Taoiseach Bertie
Ahern in his answer to a question asked by Caoimhghin O Caolain on 2
November 1999. Mr. Ahern indicated his intention of raising the Seamus
Ludlow case with the British authorities and he stated that his government
will "reassess what to do next". Would this mean a rethink in
favour of a public inquiry as demanded by the family of Seamus Ludlow?
Regrettably, no! This reassessment resulted only in the private Hamilton
Inquiry, which had been rejected by the Ludlow family.
It remained to be seen if Mr. Wilson's envisaged inquiry
will be set up as he stated on UTV
Live Insight or whether the Dublin government, after
reassessing the situation, would still go ahead with its apparent intention
of instituting a closed inquiry, with perhaps only very limited access for
the Ludlow family to the proceedings.
The recent letter
from Mr. Ahern's Private Secretary appears to confirm the Ludlow family's
worse fears that the Dublin authorities remain unmoved by their consistent
demands for a public inquiry. As one Ludlow campaign supporter has
suggested, "it looks like the government has put a bit of a spin on his
(Mr. Wilson's) original intentions."
Victims Commissioner Mr. Wilson appeared again on TV3's 20/20
current affairs programme on 14 November 1999, when he made the
controversial and utterly baseless claim that in none of the correspondence
he had received was there any mention of calls for a public inquiry. This
inaccurate statement appears to have formed at least part of the basis for
the Victims Commissioner's recommendation of private inquiries into the
Dublin and Monaghan bombings as well as the murder of Seamus Ludlow.
Don Mullan, the journalist who reported for 20/20
and for the newspaper Ireland on Sunday (14
November 1999), has produced documentary evidence which proves Mr. Wilson's
claim to be completely without foundation. He has secured access to
documents presented to Mr. Wilson by the barrister representing the
Dublin-Monaghan families, Cormac O Dulachain.
Mr. Mullan continues:
In his submission headed "The case for a Tribunal of
Inquiry concerning the Dublin and Monaghan bombings on the 17th of May
1974", he (Mr. O Dulachain) writes:
"The victims and relatives of the Dublin and
Monaghan bombings believe that a sworn public tribunal of inquiry is the
existing mechanism that can address their substantive needs in the absence
of a formally sworn constituted Truth Commission.
"Accordingly the victims and relatives on whose
behalf this submission is made, seek the endorsement and recommendation of
the Victims Commissioner for a Tribunal of Inquiry."
O Dulachain's submission also included a report from
Prof Dermot Walsh, Director for the Centre for Criminal Justice,
University of Limerick, which calls on the Garda Siochana to account for
its investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. The submission
"If an inquiry is to overcome the accountability
shortcomings and serve the needs of the victims, it is essential that it
should be a public judicial inquiry with full powers to call for persons,
papers and records."
As far as the Ludlow family is concerned, in all
correspondence they have had with the Garda and the Irish government they
have stressed the absolutely dire necessity for a full and public inquiry.
The Dublin authorities can have no possible justification for attempting to
misrepresent the Ludlow family's campaign for a public inquiry as a call for
something less which would permit some credibility to a private inquiry.
The Ludlow family was heartened by the welcome
contribution to the 20/20 programme of Mr. Imran
Khan, the eminent British solicitor, and lawyer for the family of the
murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence. Mr. Khan attended at a Relatives
for Justice conference at Dungannon, where he was accompanied by the
mother of the murdered schoolboy. In the course of his interview with Don
Mullan, Mr. Khan encouraged the Ludlow family and others to reject the idea
of a private inquiry.
Mr. Khan spoke about the recent public inquiry in England
which the Lawrence family had won against great official resistance, to get
to the truth of Stephen Lawrence's murder and of the racism at the heart of
the London Metropolitan Police's mishandling of the murder investigation
which has allowed the young man's murderers to stay free. He told Don Mullan:
"There are many reasons why the public inquiry
achieved what the Lawrences wanted.
"The way witnesses gave evidence changed because
they knew what they were saying would be open to public scrutiny. They
couldn't hide behind the fact that what they were saying wouldn't be in
the public arena."
The Ludlow family agrees with Mr. Khan's final remarks,
from his own experience of the shameful Lawrence case in England, that when
the authorities are reluctant to call a public inquiry it can mean that they
have something to hide.
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