Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy has apologised to the family of the late
Seamus Ludlow for the failure of the force in the investigation of Mr.
Ludlow's murder almost 30 years ago.
He also apologised for the failure of the gardai to notify relatives
about the inquest into his death.
“I regret it very much that we did not bring this case to a
satisfactory conclusion and the management of the gardai feel the same
way,” the commissioner said.
And he added that he would have no difficulty in asking the PSNI if
there was anything else they could do to re-open the investigation into
the murder of the 47-year-old forestry worker who was shot dead outside
Dundalk on May 2nd, 1976.
But he told the Joint Oireachtas sub Committee on Justice that it was
quite possible that the PSNI had exhausted their powers in relation to
Four people were arrested and questioned about Mr. Ludlow's murder
but the DPP in the North had said that there was insufficient evidence
to bring a criminal prosecution.
The Commissioner agreed that there had been co-operation between the
RUC (now the PSNI) and Gardai at the time of Mr. Ludlow's murder, but
said that he found it strange that the RUC had not passed on information
they had about the four suspects to gardai until 10 months after the
crime. “Maybe the RUC were protecting an informer?” he said.
Asked about the failure of the Gardai to inform the family of the
original inquest in 1979 he said “it was very regrettable and to make
it worse, we did not go and seek permission to have it adjourned, and I
would expect that was the least we could have done so that the family
could hear the evidence, and I regret it.”
Earlier Commissioner Conroy's predecessor Pat Byrne told the
Committee that it was the responsibility of the gardai to take the next
step once the RUC had identified four suspects to them.
“I am of the view that the system failed and I point the finger at
“I don't know what happened I cannot identify a particular person,
a number are now dead, but I don't think there was a conspiracy not to
pursue the case” Mr. Byrne said.
It would be unfair to suggest that the RUC should have taken the lead
role in the case, he added.
Mr. Byrne said he believed it was a system failure and he wouldn't
subscribe to the conspiracy theory that some persons did not want the
The previous day, former Garda commission Laurence Wren disputed the
finding of the Barron Report that it was probably him who made the
decision not to pursue the interrogation of the four loyalist suspects
in Northern Ireland.
He said he didn’t know why the Barron Report had reached the
conclusion it did.
The former head of the intelligence gathering C3 denied that he had
no part in the investigation into the murder of Seamus Ludlow.
He claimed that there was no way he could have authorised then Supt
Courtney or anyone else to travel to Northern Ireland to interview the
suspects. He said the issue had never been discussed with him.
Mr. Wren said that the gardai were prevented from going up to
interrogate suspects in political or subversion cases in the North due
to a directive signed in 1953 and for legal reasons.
He said he had never heard of a request by the former Supt Courtney
to question the suspects.
When asked about former Commissioner Pat Byrne’s conclusion that
any decision not to proceed could only have been made by himself in
consultation with the Department of Justice, he replied that it was
“not correct” as far as he was concerned.
Mr. Courtney had told the committee that he was given the names of
the four loyalist suspects 18 months after the murder.
He said he was regular contact with C3 and was disappointed that
nothing was done about having the suspects interviewed.
While he had never spoken directly to Mr. Wren about the matter, he
was certain that he had been told by Det Sgt. Boyle that it was Mr. Wren
who had made the decision not to proceed with the investigations in
He said he was told that if they had allowed it, the RUC would have
looked for reciprocal arrangements.
The then Minister for Defence Mr. Gerard Collins said that
extradition arrangements weren’t in place at the time.
He felt that the key question was why the RUC had done nothing and
didn’t say anything for 18 months.
There was no reason why the RUC couldn’t have carried out their own
investigations in Northern Ireland.