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The Argus (Dundalk), 5 April 2006:
Final report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the murder of Seamus Ludlow
New evidence emerged that Gardai went north to interview suspects
New evidence confirming that Gardai did in fact travel to Northern Ireland to carry out interviews with suspects emerged during the hearings of the Joint Committee.
The question of whether Gardai could travel north to interview suspects emerged as one of the key issues as to why the investigation into Seamus Ludlow's death "fizzled out" even after the Gardai were given the names of four suspects in the case by the RUC 18 months after the killing.
This proved to be an issue of major conflict, with the Sub-Committee hearing vastly different evidence.
Justice Barron in his report had concluded that "the original investigation of 1976 was conducted competently and diligently by Gardai and that they are in no way to blame for the failure to identify the killers."
This, however, was disputed by members of the Ludlow family, with Mr Jimmy Sharkey saying that they believed that: "No. The failings lie in 1976. If the committee members look three years further on to 1979, then they are missing the whole thing. They are not seeing the wood for the trees. In 1976, the Gardai probably did not know who killed Seamus Ludlow as they did not have enough concrete information, suspects and so on, but they knew the IRA did not do it.
"There were only two groups carrying out killings at that time - apart from the SAS, which came on the scene around that time - and they were the republicans and the loyalists. The Gardai would have known that the loyalists were involved in the bombings in the town in December 1975, six months before Mr Ludlow was killed. they had to be channeling their intelligence somewhere, but they kept a spin on the incident the whole time that it was the IRA, for the reasons that I outlined earlier."
Evidence was given by former Detective Inspector Courtney, who was the border Superintendent at the time. He recalled: "We had an open mind on the investigation. We investigated it from all angles, keeping in mind that it could have been an ordinary domestic murder, a Provisional IRA or UDA murder. We had no definite suspects or line of inquiry."
Former Detective Inspector Courtney described how he had been surprised and delighted when the RUC had given him the names of the four suspects. He said that the purpose of his visit North on that occasion was in relation to the Dundalk bombing. The RUC had told him that they had received the information they were giving him approximately 18 months previously. Because of the detail he was given, he was satisfied that the information was reliable. He was of the view that the four named suspects should be interviewed and investigated.
In respect of the information, he stated that: "I sent it on to C3 whose duty it was to make arrangements to have the people interviewed. My function was just to report the matter, to pass on the information."
He said that he would have had no authority to go North to interview suspects and that it was the duty of C3 to make such arrangements. He said his link persons in C3 were late Chief Superintendent Michael Fitzgerald and, in his ansence, former Detective Sergeant Daniel Boyle.
He was clear that one could not go outside of the State in respect of the interviewing of suspects without permission from C3.
Former Detective Inspector Courtney said that he had been surprised when he had spoken to former Detective Sergeant Daniel Boyle and had been told that nothing would be done about the investigation and he described how then the investigation "just fizzled out". He said that: "The reason given was that if the four suspects were extradited, the RUC would be looking for four IRA suspects to be extradited to Belfast."
He said that he had believed at the time that he could have secured a conviction: "One must strike when the iron is hot. We should have interviewed them at the time, not years afterwards, since the trail grows cold as the years pass by."
Deputy Power asked him if he contended that it was former Commissioner Wren who made the decision not to question the suspects and he stated that "I do not know what the position was in this regard. He was probably told to do it. I reported to him and gave him the names of the suspects." He then said that he assumed it came down from former Commissioner Wren but very fairly added that he could not be certain of this as all he knew was that former Detective Sergeant Daniel Boyle had told him in March or April 1979.
Former Detective Inspector Courtney also said that he had been surprised to read in the Barron Report that the information regarding the names of the suspects which had been given to him by the RUC was already with the Commissioner of C3.
Former Commissioner Wren was the Deputy Commissioner of C3 in the period January to April 1979. He told the Sub-Committee that he had no recollection of having been approached by former Detective Inspector Courtney for permission to interview the four suspects. He said that any such decision would not have been made by C3 without reference to a higher authority.
Former Commissioner Wren was emphatic in his recollection that the question of him giving authorisation to go North, simply did not arise.
"There is no way in which I could have authorised former Detective Inspector Courtney or any other member of the force to go North because we had no jurisdiction or authority, irrespective of whether we had been invited. An invitation from a police officer in Northern Ireland confers no authority or legitimate status on a member of the Garda Siochana questioning suspects in that jurisdiction. A member in this position would have been on his own if anything had gone wrong as there was no law to cover that eventuality."
The Joint Committee's report noted that "there is a clear conflict between the position of then Detective Inspector Courtney and that of former Commissioner Wren," and that the one person who might have been in a position to resolve this, former Detective Sergeant Daniel Boyle had declined an invitation to appear before the committee."
Former Detective Sergeant Corrigan, who had travelled with former Detective Inspector Courtney to the RUC Headquarters in Belfast in1979, said that he was "devastated when the case was not pursued. I returned to Dundalk very excited about developments in terms of the identification of what I considered to be good suspects for the crime. To be honest, I was elated and could not wait to have them interviewed."
When that didn't happen, he spoke to former Detective Inspector Courtney who informed him that he had been on to C3 and that the interviewing of the suspects was not being pursued.
"I was so frustrated and annoyed that I did not want to discuss it with anyone. I felt very let down after having put in so much effort. We could not pursue the case and I was not aware that anyone else had information in that regard."
He told the Sub-Committee that he would not have envisaged that he would go across the border to directly interview the suspects himself. He told the Sub-Committee that he had assumed that he and former Detective Inspector Courtney would travel North to provide information to the RUC to assist them in carrying out the actual interrogation. He told the Sub-Committee that such permission was not forthcoming. He was clear that C3 was the only part of An Garda Siochana that could issue an instruction to travel to Northern Ireland.
Evidence was given by former Detective Garda Terry Hynes, who was involved in the investigation at the time, that he had been involved in a number of external investigations where the Gardai interviewed in the North, suspects and witnesses in respect of events that had taken place in the South. He stated that: "As far as I am aware, the normal procedure was that when such journeys were made, permission had to be received from crime and security branch, or C3 as it was then known."
A letter was also sent to the Joint Committee giving details of three occasions when Gardai stationed in Dundalk, including former Detective Hynes, had travelled outside the jurisdiction to interview suspects.
These related to investigations into a train robbery at Dundalk Railway station in February 1973, the murder of Mr Monroe Nish, whose body was found outside Castlebellingham on 2nd May 1973, and in relation to the murders of Oliver Boyce and Brid Porter in Donegal in 1972.
The Sub-Committee also discussed the case of Mr Patrick Livingstone, who was interviewed by RUC officers in Dundalk Garda Station in December 1975.
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