The forgotten ‘disappeared’
The forgotten ‘disappeared’



Thirty years ago, Seamus Ruddy disappeared in France. Dominique Foulon, former editor of Irland Libre and Solidarite Irlande, calls for his body to be returned to his family.


Seamus Ruddy, an Irish Socialist Republican activist who had been living in Paris since December 1983, disappeared on the 8th of May, 1985.

In the following months and over time the circumstances of his disappearance became known. Seamus Ruddy was lured under the pretext of having a discussion with INLA members, then abducted, tortured, killed, and finally buried naked in the Bord forest in Normandy, his place of execution.

This story can only be understood in the context of conflict in Northern Ireland at the time.

Central to understanding the Six counties from the summer of 1969 and the long period of armed struggle that followed, is acknowledgement that it was the result of British politics that were as absurd as they were criminal.

Next to the Irish Republican Army, INLA was created in 1974 and was meant to be “the left wing” of the independence struggle.

Seamus Ruddy who enlisted to fight for Civil Rights where he lived in Newry in Northern Ireland, later joined the Irish Republican Socialist Party of which the INLA was the armed wing.

This still modest organization, in 1979 organized the attack within the British parliament in London which killed Airey Neave, the politician who placed Margaret Thatcher on the rails of power and a supporter of an uncompromising line in the Irish conflict.

Special services in subsequent years put out of harm’s way or eliminated most major elements of this organization, creating the conditions for a disruption that was going to last.

During the prisoners’ hunger strikes to demand political status in 1980/81, three INLA activists died. Seamus Ruddy played an important role as organizer whose role was as liaison between the strikers and their families.

Then, under the blows of repression, the organization began to fall apart. The proximity of some members of the INLA in the strafing of the Protestant Church in Darkley, County Armagh, in which three parishioners were killed in November 1983, marked the turning towards an increasing political drift.

Taking advantage of the imprisonment of a number of militants, a faction tried to control by means of force the organization’s military wing. To ensure the mastery of weapons, some came to France to get the contacts Seamus Ruddy might have managed in the sphere of arms trafficking. Indeed he was arrested in Greece in 1979 with weapons from the Middle East. He was considered to have valuable knowledge in this field.

According to several books and journalistic investigations, John O’Reilly from Belfast and one of his henchmen Peter Stewart, came to France to get their hands on these supply networks. It was this O’Reilly who with another member of his faction named Sean Hughes, who beat up a refugee activist in France. The beaten man had resigned because of the “evolution” of the organization. Intimidation and violence were used to neutralize dissidents: a foretaste of what which was to be committed.

John O’Reilly was gunned down with other members of his organization in Drogheda in Ireland by a rival faction the 20th of January 1987. Peter Stewart died of illness a few years later. Sean Hughes arrested in France for arms trafficking, was expelled to Africa. All attempts by the Seamus’s family and his partner, only encountered silence and threats.

Since 1994 the issue of the “disappeared” of the Northern Ireland conflict gained momentum. The families claimed the bodies of the missing. Today there are six outstanding cases, among them Seamus Ruddy.

It is likely that these people at the time received aid and support of French militants who probably believed they were acting for the cause of the Liberation of Ireland or for the establishment of a democratic socialist regime. It is the belief of many protagonists in the case. It is they, who have the key to put a final end to this disappearance.

Thirty years later, nothing can justifies this silence.

For Seamus’s Irish friends, John O’Reilly’s death put an end to the case. More, no prosecution is now possible after such a long time. The peace process initiated in Ireland for twenty years, if it has not solved all the problems, allowed for the demilitarisation of politics.

We, who have campaigned for the recognition of the legitimacy of the Irish cause in France for many years, cannot tolerate that this silence still goes on.

Neither the Irish Republican struggle, nor the struggle for “socialism” have anything to gain from this iniquity.

For the relatives of Seamus Ruddy, but also for the ideal of justice and democracy that was his, the silence surrounding his disappearance must stop: his remains must be found.

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