Who was Seamus Ludlow?
Seamus Ludlow was a 47-year-old Catholic bachelor who lived at Thistlecross, Mountpleasant, Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland, just a short distance south of the border and the Six Counties. Seamus lived in his lifelong home with his elderly mother and his married sister and her family. Seamus worked with his brother-in-law Tommy Fox (now deceased) as a forestry worker in the vicinity of his home. Seamus Ludlow was murdered by Loyalists from the Six Counties in May 1976. His killers have never been brought to justice, and his family want to know why this is so.
Seamus met his death on the night of 1st. and 2nd. May 1976. After spending the evening in various Dundalk public houses, Seamus left the Lisdoo Arms, on the Ni road just north of Dundalk, around 11.30 pm. He was last seen standing outside Smith’s Garage nearby, thumbing a lift for the three mile distance to his home, as he had done on many occasions before. A memorial now marks the spot where Seamus Ludlow’s body was found on Sunday, 2nd May, 1976.
Who killed Seamus Ludlow, and why?
The first part of this question is easier to answer than the second part. Despite false claims spread by the Gardai in southern Ireland and by the British Army in the Six Counties, to the effect that Seamus Ludlow was an informer who had been murdered by the IRA, forces of a different hue were responsible. The Ludlow family emphatically maintain that Seamus Ludlow was no informer. He was not killed by the IRA.
Recent revelations of an RUC and Gardai cover-up dating from the 1970s show how in fact it was known all along that Seamus Ludlow was the victim of a Loyalist/British Army murder gang. It is now known that the RUC in Belfast handed a file on the killing to the Gardai in 1979. This file contained the names of at least three of the suspects who were arrested by the RUC nearly 20 years later, in February 1998. It has also emerged, from statements made by one of the suspects, that he was questioned about the murder by the RUC Special Branch in 1987, and that he was told to say no more about Seamus Ludlow because it was “political”.
Why Seamus Ludlow was killed remains a mystery. Perhaps we should be asking what the four Loyalist suspects, including two members of the British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), from far off Comber and Newtownards in north Down, were doing in Dundalk on the night in question.
Were they engaged in a drinking spree as it has been suggested, or were they on a mission of murder. Seamus Ludlow was totally unknown to them. Could it be that he was just another Catholic or a victim of mistaken identity, killed instead of another intended victim, who may have been a republican. There have been persistent rumours that Seamus bore a strong resemblance to one man in particular who may have been on a death list .
Why was Seamus Ludlow’s murder covered up?
This is the question that has yet to be answered, hopefully at a public inquiry. The Ludlow family rightfully feel that those (whoever they are) who participated in this shameful neglect of duty, and perverted justice, must be forced to answer for their abuse. Gardai officers were paid and sworn to uphold the law, solve or prevent crime, and to protect members of the public from crime.
Certainly in the case of Seamus Ludlow’s murder, and in every other case where Loyalists committed murder in the Irish state - in Dundalk, Castleblaney, Dublin, Monaghan, Buncrana and Sallins - with perhaps fifty innocent victims - the Gardai have manifestly failed in that duty.
In the case of Seamus Ludlow it is clear that there was a cover-up. Members of the Gardai have admitted this to members of the Ludlow family. A secret file containing the names of at least three suspects had been gathering dust for some twenty years, even while Gardai in Dundalk were constantly assuring members of the Ludlow family that there was no other file, and there were no other suspects.
It has recently been reported that this RUC file had been passed to several high-ranking Gardai officers - including an Assistant Commissioner - yet no action was taken. Several officers, and others in retirement and still living, should have interesting answers to give when, or if, they are forced to testify.
It has been suggested that the cover-up was inspired by a need to protect one of the Loyalist killers who may have been an agent working within the death squad. If true, this agent, who may have been the actual killer, may well have reported back to his RUC Special Branch, British Army or MI5 handlers immediately. He may have given them a detailed report about the killing of Seam Ludlow.
The Gardai’s handling of Seamus Ludlow’s inquest on 19th August 1976 also leads to suspicions of a cover-up. No members of the Ludlow family were present, simply because no one within the family was given sufficient advance notice. Clearly, Ludlow family members were not wanted there. The inquest reports in the local press and the state pathologist’s report say nothing about the calibre of weapon used to kill Seamus Ludlow. This neglect fuels suspicions that a British Army/UDR weapon was used. Such a weapon would have identified the killers immediately. The Ludlow family made a case to the government and succeeded in getting a fresh inquest opened in this case. This inquest will commence on 5 September 2005 in Dundalk.
The Ludlow family demands a public inquiry to uncover the answers to all of the important questions raised about the official cover-up of the murder of Seamus Ludlow. These questions have been raised in previous communications between the family and its legal representative and the authorities in Dublin and Belfast. The absolute necessity for the holding of a public inquiry has been argued vigorously.
All that was offered was a private inquiry that fell far short of the Ludlow family’s demands. The Government refused to budge. Ministers were determined to push ahead with a private inquiry under Mr Justice Hamilton and, upon his death, Mr Justice Barron, regardless of the Ludlow family’s objections.
What is the position now?
The Ludlow family has been cooperating with a private inquiry headed by its sole member Mr Justice Henry Barron. Mr Justice Barron was appointed by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and given terms of reference to investigate several cases involving Loyalist attacks in the Republic and along the border. He has also compiled reports on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 1974 and the Dublin bombings of 1972 and 1973, as well as the Dundalk bombing of December 1975. The first two reports have already been published.
Despite the Ludlow family’s serious doubts as to the merit of this private inquiry process, which falls far short of our demand for a public inquiry, it was decided to cooperate with Mr Justice Barron, since his private inquiry would go ahead anyway and regardless of the Ludlow family’s stated objections. The Ludlow family decided to assist Justice Barron in every way possible, while still reserving the right to call for a public inquiry. It was important also that the Ludlow family should not later stand accused for any failings in Mr Justice Barron’s final report due to a failure to cooperate.
After much delay, Mr Justice Barron completed his private inquiry and submitted his report to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the Irish Government in October 2004. The Ludlow family is now waiting for the report to be published before making any further comment. Once published, the report will go before a Joint Oireachtas Committee of elected TDs and Senators, meeting in open session - and broadcast on national television. The report will be examined and a further report with recommendations will be made by the Joint Oireachtas Committee.
A fresh inquest into the death of Seamus Ludlow opened at Dundalk Courthouse on 5 September 2005. This inquest was first ordered by the Irish attorney general Rory Brady in July 2002. The original inquest of 19 August 1976 was heavily criticised by the Ludlow family because it went ahead in the absence of any members of the family. It was also criticised because there was no examination of ballistic or forensic reports. The Ludlow family felt that they were deliberately excluded by the Gardai to ensure that the inquest was rushed through and to help conceal important matters that should have come to light.
The fresh inquest was repeatedly delayed until the autumn of 2005 by Gardai reluctance to hand over certain files requested by the coroner. This includes the internal Murphy file from 1998. This file was compiled by the now retired Chief Superintendent Ted Murphy after his investigation of the original murder investigation of 1976. The Ludlow family have been refused access to this important file that may help reveal the truth behind the cover-up of the murder of Seamus Ludlow.
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