The 26 County State is to to force the family of collusion murder victim Seamus Ludlow to pay costs after a legal challenge mounted as part of their justice campaign was rejected in the High Court in Dublin.
Justice Mary Faherty ruled on Thursday the State should pay only half the legal costs of the family’s unsuccessful action aimed at the establishment of two commissions of inquiry into the discredited Garda investigation into his murder.
However, she said it was “undeniably acknowledged” that the State had failed the family of the innocent forestry worker, shot dead by loyalists in 1976, likely in collusion with British forces.
The Louth man was shot after leaving a bar in Dundalk and his body was found on May 2nd, 1976 in a lane near his home. No-one has ever been charged in connection with the murder and gardai police failed to pursue evidence that Mr Ludlow was an innocent victim of a loyalist/British death squad who mistook him for a member of the IRA.
The State previously apologised to the family over the failures of the Garda investigation into what it described as the “callous sectarian murder” of Mr Ludlow in 1976.
However, Ms Justice Faherty dismissed the action by Thomas Fox, a nephew of Mr Ludlow, which was supported by other family members, against the Minister for Justice and the State.
Mr Fox (pictured, right) sought to have the State establish two commissions of inquiry, as recommended by a 2006 parliamentary Joint Committee, based on a report of retired High Court judge Henry Barron into the murder of Mr Ludlow.
It confirmed that Gardai knew who killed Seamus Ludlow in 1979 when the RUC confirmed this was carried out by loyalists, some of which were suspected of being state agents with links to RUC Special Branch.
Despite the RUC having identified suspects north of the border, the Garda investigation was suspended after three weeks without explanation and on the basis of what one Garda told the family were “orders from Dublin”.
The final report was critical of the treatment of the Ludlow family, police misconduct, missing documents and possible collusion by the British state. Arising from these concerns, the Justice Committee found that “a further inquiry is essential in order to ensure justice is both done and seen to be done”.
However, Ms Justice Faherty found the courts cannot force a Minister for Justice to set up any kind of inquiry. Despite recognising the “considerable public interest involved”, she said the appropriate order was to award Mr Fox only half his costs.
There are concerns that the decision could have a chilling effect on the Ludlow campaign and other justice campaigns.
Speaking before this week’s costs ruling, Sinn Fein ‘s Gerry Adams expressed his “deep disappointment” at the rejection of the legal challenge.
“I want to commend the courage and perseverance of the Ludlow family who have campaigned for over 40 years for the truth about the murder of Seamus in 1976. The family are understandably upset and frustrated by today’s judgement.
“It is widely acknowledged, including by Ms Justice Faherty today, that the family were treated appalling by the state and especially by the failure of An Garda Siochana to follow up on information available to them.
“The family will now discuss the outcome of today’s hearing with their legal team before deciding whether to appeal the judgement.
“However, given that the decision not to establish a Commission of Investigation was taken by a Minister for Justice, it is open to a Minister for Justice to establish such a Commission.”