Evidence has emerged that suggests the Dublin government ordered Garda police not to pursue British military and unionist paramilitary killers of Irish citizens in the 1970s.
Statements made by a commission of the Dublin parliament into the 1976 murder of Seamus Ludlow has supported the belief that such a policy existed.
However, in its report published on Wednesday, the commission failed to call for a full public inquiry, despite detailing the strong co-operation which existed at that time between the Garda Siochana and the RUC police north of the border.
Suspicions of an ongoing cover-up over the Ludlow killing and a number of atrocities south of the border, including the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, have been reinforced.
Relatives of Seamus Ludlow believe a policy existed to draw a veil over British and pro-British murders. They described as “ridiculous” the claims that the killers of their relative were not pursued because gardai feared that the IRA would attack them for co-operating with the RUC. They point to the commission’s report, which documents that for at least three years prior to Mr Ludlow’s murder, gardai had been co-operating regularly with the RUC.
Mr Ludlow’s nephew Jimmy Sharkey said: “The Irish government didn’t want to upset the British so they didn’t go after the men who murdered Seamus.
“But my uncle’s case wasn’t isolated. Why were the loyalists who blew up Castleblayney, Dundalk, Dublin and Monaghan not pursued? There are hundreds of grieving families who deserve answers.”
Margaret Urwin -- secretary of the Justice for the Forgotten group, which represents those bereaved or injured as a result of the 1970s Dublin and Monaghan bombings -- said: “For the Garda to claim they didn’t co-operate with the RUC in pursuing loyalist killers because of fear of IRA attacks is nonsense. They were working hand in glove for years.”
A senior Garda officer has now been appointed to re-examine the previous Garda investigation into the Ludlow murder, but this has only increased calls for an inquiry independent of the state institutions.
Mr Sharkey said his family had reluctantly supported the parliamentary committee investigation.
“We didn’t want this. It wasn’t what we asked for. The committee was only a talking shop. It had no power,” he said.
“The bottom line is that the state is still protecting the people it was protecting back in the 1970s.
“But the game doesn’t stop here. My family haven’t been defeated. It is only half-time as far as I am concerned.”
BAIT AND SWITCH
Human-rights campaigners have also hit out at a British government decision to make key changes to a public probe into the murder of Catholic man Robert Hamill.
British Direct Ruler Peter Hain announced he was converting the tribunal so it would be held under the Inquiries Act, which will allow greater interference and secrecy by the authorities.
A loyalist mob beat 25-year-old Robert Hamill to death in Portadown, County Armagh, in April 1997. RUC police who were stationed at the scene observed the fatal attack but failed to intervene.
The killing was one of four controversial murders in the North for which the retired Canadian judge Peter Cory recommended inquiries, all of which are now mired in controversy.
Jane Winter of British-Irish Rights Watch attacked the latest development.
“It’s not a good act. It takes power away from the judge and gives it to the secretary of state.
“The scope for interference is smaller in the Hamill case ... but we can’t be sure there won’t be any interference with Hamill as well.
“We know there was a cover-up in the Hamill case and, when there’s a cover-up, you never know how much of it has come to light,” she said.
Ms Winter said the British government was trying to pressurise the family of Pat Finucane into accepting the Inquiries Act by changing other probes so they are conducted under the act.
“They can then say there can’t be that much wrong with the act,” she said.