The Barron Inquiry - Draft Terms of Reference for Inquiry - A Fresh Inquest - 2005 Inquest Account - BIRW Report - Witness Account - Ludlow Family Account - Sunday World report May 1976 - Meeting the Police Ombudsman - Ed Moloney Radio Interview - 25th Anniversary - Profile - Questions - Photographs - Press Release - Letter to RUC - Magill article 1999 - Press Coverage - Barron Report Published - Ludlow Family Response to Barron Report - Download the Barron Report from the Oireachtas website (pdf file) - Statement from Justice for the Forgotten - Joint Oireachtas Committee Request for Submissions - Joint statement from Justice for the Forgotten, Relatives for Justice and the Pat Finucane Centre - Download Transcript of Ludlow family meeting with Oireachtas Sub-Committee (Word file)
Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights
Sub-Committee on the Barron Report on the Murder of Seamus Ludlow
Hearing, 24 January 2006
Open hearings of the Joint Oireachtas sub-committee on Justice's inquiry into the recently published Barron Report into the 1976 murder of Seamus Ludlow commenced on 24 January 2006 with submissions from several members of the extended Ludlow family. In the afternoon session important submissions were also made by Justice for the Forgotten and British Irish Rights Watch.
Joint Oireachtas sub-committee sessions continued the following week on 31 January and 1 February, with important evidence taken from retired Gardai and former politicians, as well as the current Garda Commissioner.
I thank Mrs Fox. I know how
difficult this is for her and the sub-committee appreciates her attendance.
will now deal with Michael Donegan who is a nephew of Seamus Ludlow.
Michael Donegan is a son of Kevin Donegan, who, we know from the report,
was questioned by the British in Northern Ireland and there was considerable
toing and froing. I am very
disappointed that we have still not been able to receive from the Northern
Ireland authorities any information of any description regarding Mr. Donegan's
interviewing, particularly considering that helicopter travel was involved.
One would assume there would be information regarding the trips for
helicopters. Even that information
has been withheld and has not been forthcoming.
I state our utter disappointment with the authorities in Northern Ireland
for their non-co-operation with us. I
hope I have not put Mr. Donegan out in any way.
Michael Donegan: Not at all.
I ask him to tell us what he would like to say.
Donegan: I thank the committee for having us here.
We welcome this opportunity to speak publicly for the first time.
As the members will realise I come from Northern skies.
I may have a different perspective on this matter.
I had no contact with the Garda, although the Chairman mentioned my
father, who did, over a period of months following the killing.
He went to Dundalk and met several detectives.
He just wanted to know what the score was - what was happening.
He had, in his early life, been in the Defence Forces of this State for
14 years and basically believed that if he heard it from Garda then it must be
true. He basically believed them.
told him the IRA did it and not only that the IRA did it, but that it was a
family affair. They told him that
members of the family were involved in it.
It was a set up. They set
Uncle Seamus up. They told him that
members of the family actually took part in the killing.
As I said, he was a man who basically believed what he was told by the
Garda, even though what they told him did not make sense.
It caused all kinds of conflict in the house.
We knew there was no way that man was killed by the IRA.
There was just no way on God's earth that he was an informer.
There was no way that any member of the family would ever be involved in
such a thing. There is no question
about it; the killing traumatised the family, turned us upside down.
To a large extent it put our lives on hold for the next 30 years, which
is why we are here today.
met these gardaí over a number of months and they just kept putting it home to
him: the IRA, the IRA, the IRA. He
went to his grave with that belief: that it was the IRA, because of what they
told him. There is no question that
it caused a lot of conflict in my house. I
am not going to try to avoid it now.
also comes into the picture as the day after Uncle Seamus was buried, a party of
British soldiers came to our house. We
live in a place called Drumintee, just a few miles across the Border close to
Forkhill Barracks. My father opened
the door to them and they told him they were sent by the RUC to ask some
questions of my mother, who was the sister of Seamus Ludlow.
It was very strange, when I think about it, that they knew my mother was
Seamus Ludlow's sister. Some of our
neighbours did not know that; the British Army did.
My father told them it had nothing to do with them, they were not police,
this was not their jurisdiction and that they should go away.
They insisted they were going to get the answers they were looking for.
When eventually my mother came out to see what was going on, they started
putting questions to her, such as why the IRA would do that to her brother as
surely to God it would not do that for nothing.
They suggested he must have been involved in something, must have been a
bad man and deserved it. This went
on for some time.
they departed, my father got on a bicycle, cycled the two miles to Forkhill to
take it up with the RUC, to make a complaint.
When he got there, apparently there were no RUC officers available or if
they were there they were not interested in him.
He was then abducted, put aboard a British military helicopter and flown
to Bessbrook where he was interrogated for over an hour by a military
intelligence officer. He did not
speak about it much, but he always said the one thing they wanted to know was
what the Garda knew and was thinking, and what was its line of inquiry.
was away from home for more than an hour. My
mother became rather concerned because Forkhill is only a short distance away -
about ten minutes on a bicycle, there and back - and he had not returned.
She telephoned the barracks and was told they had never heard of him.
She became very concerned and telephoned the local councillor.
Like the good man that he was, he jumped in his car and drove straight to
Forkhill. He was satisfied that my
father was not there. At first,
they would not tell him where my father was.
Eventually, he got it out of them that my father was in Bessbrook.
He then drove to Bessbrook to bring my father home.
never really told the story to many people.
I was amazed years later when I read Monsignor Murray's book, The SAS
in Ireland, to find that the story was there.
I do not know how he found out about it.
I presume he got it from the late councillor I have mentioned because he
did not get it from us. The family
believed at the time that the British Army had some interest in and knowledge of
this case. A murder in Dundalk
should not have been any of its business. Really,
it should not have been at our door asking questions about it.
I firmly believe that they - the British Army - probably knew about this
from day one. They were just trying
to track what we knew and what the gardaí knew.
have lived continually in the south Armagh area for all those years.
I do not think there is anyone in the area who really believes that uncle
Seamus was an informer, even though these rumours were out there.
The rumours never went away. It
would be wrong to assume that the rumours just came from the gardaí - they did
not. I have with me copies of two
books - two scurrilous publications - written about the SAS, both of which state
as a fact that uncle Seamus was an informer who was murdered by the IRA.
I presume that the source of that information is the British Army.
Clearly, the rumour mill was North and South.
saw it expedient to denigrate the memory of this good man and to bring all kinds
of hurt to our family because of this. They
did not care who he was - he was expendable and we were expendable.
We have only heard in the last ten years that the RUC had a file in 1977.
The RUC never came to us in Dromintee in 1977, or in 1979 or in 1998.
Indeed, from the day the British Army was at our door, the RUC has never
ever come near the Donegan family about this case.
It has never shown us any consideration whatsoever.
firmly believe and my family believes the only way we are going to get this
thrashed out is in a full-blown public inquiry, where we are able to name names
in such a way we cannot do today. We
have come here today knowing we are under restrictions, just as the
sub-committee is under restrictions. It
is clear that some issues cannot be thrashed out here.
I firmly believe they can only be thrashed out at a public inquiry, where
witnesses can be compelled to appear and to give evidence and where documents
can be compelled. If it means the
British do not co-operate, so be it. That
does not mean an inquiry cannot go ahead. The
British can be shamed for their non-appearance.
They should be ashamed. We
have been waiting for 30 years. I
have gone grey in that time. As I
said, our lives are on hold.
This should be behind us a long time ago. Several members of the family have passed away. Since we started this more recent track in the last ten years, I have lost three cousins. Mrs. Eileen Fox has lost a daughter, Maria, who died suddenly and cannot be here today. Another cousin, Mr. Brendan Larkin, would be sitting at this table if he were alive. His sister is Mrs. Dolores Flanagan. We do not have time. I do not think we can afford to wait another five years, or whatever, down the line. We need the truth now. We need justice now. I ask the sub-committee to think carefully and to give us a public inquiry.
I thank Mr. Donegan. I invite
Deputies Hoctor and Costello to ask some questions.
Hoctor: I thank the Chair and Mr. Donegan.
I would like Mr. Donegan to clarify a couple of points.
Was Mr. Donegan's mother, Kathleen, a sister of Seamus Ludlow's?
Hoctor: This very unusual event was made even more unusual by the
questioning of Mr. Donegan's father rather than his mother.
Can he comment on that?
Donegan: He was the one who went to Forkhill whereas my mother did not.
The abduction would have happened to whomever had gone there.
It was a traumatic experience for him to be put in a helicopter and
whisked away. Not everybody wanted
to get into a noisy machine like a helicopter over south Armagh in what were
Hoctor: Was Mr. Donegan's mother questioned at all?
Donegan: She was only questioned at the door of the house.
They were there for 20 to 30 minutes demanding information from her.
She was disgusted because it was none of their business.
They were not police and although it did not even happen in the North,
they were making it their business. They
came in a party in the name of the RUC, who were not interested and have not
bothered us about it since.
Hoctor: Mr. Donegan said it appeared to him that there was British interest
in the case. What other conclusions
has he drawn?
Donegan: At the time, I believed the SAS was involved.
There was a famous incident on the south Armagh-north Louth Border around
that time when eight SAS officers were taken by the Garda.
Their weapons were checked to see if they were used in this case which
indicates a level of suspicion that the SAS was involved.
My radar was definitely pointed in that direction and, possibly, at
loyalists. I do not know what the
cover-up is about and why the Garda spread lies among the family, tried to spilt
us apart, kept us away from the inquest, withheld new information which came
forward and has refused to apologise. A
public inquiry is required to get these people in front of us to tell us how it
was. They seem to be running away
Hoctor: Has Mr. Donegan come up with any reasons as to why the false
impression about Seamus was not rectified by the Garda or the British
Donegan: He was a lone victim and, as such, vulnerable to being defamed.
He was not killed in a bombing and was the clear victim of a random act,
somebody picked him out. We know
who picked him out but they did not know or care who he was.
The implication is that if he was picked out, maybe he deserved it, from
which idea I totally disassociate myself. That
is the source of the rumours. It
was felt that he was a likely one and that he could be framed while matters it
was wished to keep from the public could be covered up.
I do not know why they wanted to do this or what was their motive in
failing to go after the killers when they knew who they were from fairly early
on. Apparently, they knew within
three months that it was not the IRA, but they never told us that.
They harped on throughout the years - not to me but to my relatives -
that it was the IRA and they even named a member of the family as a person
involved in the killing. That is
hard to take.
Hoctor: I thank Mr. Donegan very much.
Costello: I thank Mr. Donegan for his account.
The British army personnel arrived at the home of Mr. Donegan's parents
the day after the burial. How did
they arrive? Were they in uniform
or plain clothes?
Donegan: They were in uniform. I
do not know if they walked to the area or came by helicopter, but they stood at
the door in uniform.
Costello: Does Mr. Donegan have any idea of their rank?
Donegan: No, I was not present. I
was at work and it was all over when I came home.
Costello: Mr. Donegan's father never mentioned their rank and the soldiers
did not identify themselves as ranking officers.
Donegan: No, they were just soldiers. I
imagine one of them was a junior officer but I cannot vouch for that.
Costello: Their main statement or allegation was that Seamus had been killed
by the IRA.
Donegan: Yes, they said that as a fact.
They came to establish as fact that Seamus was killed by the IRA and must
have deserved it and that he must have been a bad man.
Costello: That seemed to be their belief.
Costello: There was never a suggestion as to from where that belief had
Donegan: I think it came from whomever sent the soldiers to our door.
I do not think the soldiers who came to our door knew anything about the
case. They came to do a job and were told
what to do. They were sent by somebody to
deliver that message and drive that point home, whether they knew it was right
or not. Somebody in Forkhill, Bessbrook
or wherever sent them to do it. They
wanted to establish the fact that Seamus was killed by the IRA and must have
deserved it. The implication, of course,
is that he was an informer.
Costello: Mr. Donegan's father ran them out the gate and told them to get
Donegan: Yes, but they would not do so.
Costello: They told him he had to make himself available at Forkhill RUC
Donegan: Yes, but he did not go to Forkhill because they told him.
He went because he wanted to sort out the matter with the RUC.
Costello: He went to Forkhill RUC station.
Costello: He was then questioned there by military people, not the RUC.
Donegan: I do not think any members of the RUC were available.
If they were there, they were not interested in him.
Costello: It was, therefore, a British military operation.
Donegan: It was a military operation which apparently had nothing to do with
the RUC. They bundled him onto a
chopper and sent him to Bessbrook where he was interrogated.
Costello: The Barron report states that the line of inquiry pursued related
to the Garda line of inquiry. Had
Mr. Donegan's father already spoken to the Garda at that stage?
Donegan: I do not think so. He
had discussions with some detectives over a subsequent period of months.
I think this incident took place on the day after the funeral.
When there is a death in a family, particularly a very traumatic death
such as Seamus's, families become very closed in.
I do not think my father had any discussion with the Garda.
I do not even think he saw any gardaí.
Costello: Did he speak to the Garda later on?
Donegan: Yes, he did so on several occasions and gardaí convinced him that
the IRA did it.
Costello: They convinced him.
Costello: They reached the same conclusion as that reached by the British
Mr. Donegan: Yes, they were singing from the hymn sheet on both sides of the Border. The same message was coming across. They wanted us to believe the IRA killed Seamus and that somebody in the family was involved. If the family is divided, by definition we are not united and in no fit state to oppose the censorship taking place around us or question what is going on. To some extent, that worked over the years.
Costello: The impression given to Mr. Donegan's family from the beginning
was that the IRA was involved.
Donegan: That is a fact. My
father got that impression on both sides of the Border.
Costello: Why did the security authorities on both sides of the Border come
up with the same false statement or allegation?
Donegan: If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would imagine that gardaí in
Dundalk probably knew more than they are still letting on and that they were
probably aware that something was happening in Dundalk that night.
We have information that a certain individual was being sought in Dundalk
that night. There was a target.
The cover story we have been told is that there was a drinking spree and
they just happened to find themselves in Dundalk but we know they were there to
kill a man whom they subsequently did not find.
Costello: Who were in Dundalk?
Donegan: The four loyalists were in Dundalk to kill an individual.
They could not find him and it was while on their way home that they came
upon our uncle.
Costello: Does Mr. Donegan believe that the British Army was connected in
some way with this case?
Mr. Donegan:I believe the British Army and the RUC have been always connected with such cases and evidence is growing all the time about their involvement with the loyalist death squads. I am convinced of that.
Costello: Does Mr. Donegan believe that the questioning of his father was
related in some way?
Donegan: I do.
I believe people in the British Army in Bessbrook or Forkhill also had
knowledge of what happened or what was going down in Dundalk that night and they
wanted to know what we knew and, more important, what the Garda knew.
Costello: Does Mr. Donegan believe it was something of a trawling
Donegan: That is what I believe.
Costello: Did the army ever come back again to your family home?
Donegan: Oddly enough, no. That
Costello: There was an initial visit. Mr.
Donegan's father travelled; then he was taken in a helicopter.
It all took place in the space of one day.
Donegan: Yes. That was it.
My father continued to have meetings with the Garda, south of the Border,
over the following months but never again with the British army or the RUC.
Costello: Is it Mr. Donegan's belief this was a quite deliberate attempt by
the army to find out what it could in relation to it-----
Costello: -----and that it reflected a connection in regard to an activity?
Donegan: I believe it had knowledge, if not prior knowledge.
It just wanted to know what we and the Garda knew.
I believe it was checking its cover.
Costello: How firm is Mr. Donegan's information that there might have been a
different hit target?
Donegan: It is very firm. As I
said, we have a name. I have a note
here. Does Deputy Peter Power wish
to ask a question?
P. Power: I have just one very brief question.
Everybody here was impressed by Mr. Donegan's command of the detail of
what happened at the time. However,
he said he did not know why the Garda would come up with a tissue of lies.
With his knowledge, could he not speculate in order that we could examine
the possibility of why the Garda would go through an elaborate sham when it had
no evidence to back it up?
Donegan: To be quite honest, I do not think speculation would be very
useful. That is why we want a
public inquiry, in order that we can get away from the speculation.
Let us get to the facts.
We have to stick to policy in this matter.
We will move on from there and come back to that point.
Deputy Costello will ask a brief final question.
Costello: My question relates to the inquest.
Was any attempt made to contact Mr. Donegan's family?
Donegan: Not at all. The first we
heard of the inquest was in the following weeks in the Dundalk Democrat.
That hurt a lot. We heard
along with the rest. People came up
to us and asked what had happened but we did not know.
It was embarrassing to find we did not know what had gone on at the
inquest into how our loved one had been murdered in such foul circumstances.
We knew nothing about it. Nobody
else was approached. My aunts, Mrs.
Nan Sharkey and Mrs. Eileen Fox, live at Thistle Cross, next door to each other
where my uncle, Seamus Ludlow, had lived. The
garda responsible for informing the family was stationed at Dromad.
He would have had to drive past their houses to go to Dundalk, yet he
could not drop in to let them know about the inquest.
We are getting very close to the bone. Does
Senator Walsh have a question?
J. Walsh: I appreciate Mr. Donegan might not be able to answer this question
but to the best of his knowledge, did the Garda ever interview or take a
statement from his father with regard to that whole episode?
Donegan: To be quite honest, I do not know.
I know he met them on a number of occasions.
He met them once or twice in a car.
A statement would hardly have been made in that kind of situation but he
went to the barracks at least twice.
F. McGrath: Regarding Mr. Donegan's oral submission on the murder of Mr.
Seamus Ludlow and his suspicion about security forces involvement, would he
agree the answer to his question is that because members of the security forces
were involved in the murder, we will not get the answers?
There is a whole murky field on the issue of the security services
operating on both sides of the Border at the time.
We are not here to apportion responsibility.
F. McGrath: Mr. Donegan has answered the question.
Donegan: There is a murky field.
Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Donegan. It is very difficult for everyone here, especially, as Mr. McGuill said, with the constrictions in regard to the Ardagh v. Maguire case. Mr. Donegan's remarks have been very illuminating and helpful.
I Top I
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