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

3 July 2002 - The Irish Attorney General has directed the Coroner for County Louth to hold a fresh inquest into the death of Seamus Ludlow.  . . . . Please return for updates and important developments.





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Before the Hamilton Inquiry: 

The Report of the Victims Commission.

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like that into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, should be held in private, but also that the final report should not be published.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 solicitor.

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 relative.

The Victims Commissioners' Report "A Place and a Name". 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 August 1999. 

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."

Former Irish Victims Commissioner and author of "A Place and a Name", John Wilson."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. McCarrey, Assistant Director, at the  DPP's office, dated 15 October 1999:

"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 your uncle.

"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 published. 

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 still demanded.

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 killers?

 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 killers. 

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 the family.

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 family.

Also obtained by the Ludlow family was a copy of the Irish Government's 11-page assessment of the British Irish Rights Watch (BIRW) 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 and 1974.

"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 1999. 

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 concludes:

"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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