Relatives of a Dundalk man murdered by a gang of unionist paramilitaries and British soldiers have criticised the 26-County Taoiseach for refusing to meet them.
Bertie Ahern is preparing to hold discussions with other victims of paramilitary violence, but the Ludlow family have been pressing for a meeting with the Taoiseach since he came to power in 1997. They want to question him about the Garda cover-up that followed the 1976 murder of Seamus Ludlow.
For two decades, detectives blamed the IRA for the killing, despite being told in 1979 by the RUC that a gang of four loyalists, including two locally-recuited British soldiers, were responsible.
Mr Ahern has consistently refused to meet with Mr Ludlow’s relatives to listen to their concerns.
On Friday representatives of the Taoiseach’s offices met with Belfast man Raymond McCord whose son, Raymond McCord Junior, was murdered by loyalist police informants in 1997. Mr McCord is set for a further meeting, this time with Mr Ahern, later in the year.
The Ludlow family wants to know why the Taoiseach is prepared to meet with Mr McCord, but not with them.
Mr Ludlow’s nephew, Jimmy Sharkey, said: “We’ve written to Bertie Ahern five times in the last six years but he has refused to respond to our letters.
“There is a real double standard here. Mr Ahern will call for public inquiries into murders in the North like that of Pat Finucane and Billy Wright, but won’t do the same for my uncle Seamus.”
Mr Sharkey believes that if his uncle had been murdered by the IRA he would be in regular contact with the Taosieach.
“Because Seamus was killed by loyalists Mr Ahern doesn’t want to know anything about the case. We are of no use to him,” he added.
“If Seamus had been killed by the IRA, the Taoiseach would have used us as a stick to beat Sinn Fein with.”
Another nephew of Mr Ludlow, Michael Donegan, suggested the Taoiseach was afraid of the questions the family might ask him about the murder.
He said: “Mr Ahern knows we know there was a Garda cover-up. He is afraid of what we might ask him. It is disappointing because Mr Ahern seems prepared to meet with anyone whose name isn’t Ludlow.”
The Ludlow family’s criticism of the Taoiseach came on the seventh and last day of public hearings by the Oireachtas justice sub-committee into the Barron report on the murder.
Committee chairman Sean Ardagh TD (FF), who thanked the family for attending every day, said the committee was required to report its recommendations by March 31st.
Deirdre Murphy SC said the family knew who killed Seamus Ludlow, and that it was unlikely anybody would be brought to justice. They accepted that Mr Ludlow was a random victim of a loyalist murder squad.
Bur a public inquiry into the Garda investigation of the murder of Seamus Ludlow was urgently needed, an Oireachtas committee was told yesterday. Otherwise his family would believe the State was complicit in the crime.
But they wanted a public inquiry to focus on four issues: was the murder properly investigated in 1976?; why were credible leads given to the Garda by the RUC not followed up?; why was the real evidence at the scene of the murder not preserved and what happened to it?; and was a decision taken not to pursue the investigation of the murder and, if so, who took it and for what reason?