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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 OmbudsmanEd 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) - Publication of the Oireachtas Report - Download the Final Oireachtas Sub-Committee Report on the murder of Seamus Ludlow from the Oireachtas website (pdf file) - Ludlow family press release in response to the Oireachtas Report

Original Ludlow Family website - Second Ludlow Family website - The Dundalk Bombing

The Argus (Dundalk), 3 May 2006:


Night Gardai and Army arrested eight armed SAS men in Omeath

Kevin Mulligan recalls that infamous incident at Flagstaff which occurred 30 years ago this week and talks to the arresting Garda

On the night of May 5 - 6th exactly thirty years ago in 1976 a young Garda was on duty at a remote checkpoint at Flagstaff on an unapproved road which overlooked Omeath.

It was a routine vigil on a lonely hilltop, the boredom only interrupted by the odd approaching vehicle or a stray sheep crossing the road for better grazing.

The checkpoint was deemed essential by the Irish Government because of the volatile situation in the north, and the fear of incursions into the Republic by Loyalists terror gangs, one of whom, only four days previously had brutally murdered 46-year-old Seamus Ludlow having picked him up as he hitched a lift out of Dundalk and dumped his body near his home.

Shortly after 10.30 on the night of May 5th / 6th the Garda stepped onto the road to stop an approaching car. The two occupants initially obeyed the signal to stop but when asked about their destination and the contents of their car they started to supply the Garda with smart aleck responses.

The Garda, who incidentally is still serving in Dundalk, asked the men to step out of the car. He had observed that the passenger in the front seat had a large map on his lap and had what appeared to be a gun under the map.

The alert Garda, in compliance with his duty, ordered the men to step out of the car. They were very reluctant until, unknown to the men, members of the Irish Army, rifles at the ready, stepped out of the bushes when they realised that the Garda’s instructions were not being obeyed.

Surrounded in their car by Irish soldiers pointing rifles at them, the men’s attitude dramatically changed. They stepped out of the car and meekly submitted. When the Garda searched their vehicle they were surprised to discover two sub machine guns, pump action shotguns and a number of hand guns.

The Garda, with the assistance of the Irish soldiers, arrested the pair and brought them to Omeath Garda station.

In so doing the Garda unwittingly stirred up one of the biggest hornet’s nests ever uncovered during the entire conflict with reverberations that echoed across the Irish sea not just in the day after the incident, but for months on end.

The reason for the political storm that blew up between Britain and Ireland was that the two men in the car, both in civilian attire, were later identified as members of the elite undercover British Army unit, the SAS, operating, it was claimed in the Dail days afterwards, “on a search and destroy mission” in the Republic.

Not only that but about 20 minutes after the first two men were arrested and taken under escort to Omeath station a second vehicle, containing six men drove up to the checkpoint. They too were armed and claimed that they were searching for the first car.

The six were members of the same SAS unit and the bewildered under-strength Garda unit in Omeath, under the command of Sergt. Pat McLoughlin, who was subsequently shot in Dunboyne in 1986, had to quickly take instructions on what they should do with the men in their custody. The pump action shotguns found in possession of the men caused an obvious problem for the suspicion was that a weapon of similar type was used in the killings in this area previously.

Officers in command of the Omeath station were instructed to keep the men in custody until their political masters tried to find a way out of this particular minefield.

Eventually it was decided that the eight men should be taken under heavy armed escort to Dundalk as Omeath was not suitable to contain them. The armed escort delivered the eight to Dundalk during the night, but it was almost twelve hours later at lunch time on Thursday, May 6th that news first leaked out in Dublin that the Gardai, with the assistance of the Army, had arrested a fully-armed SAS unit in civilian clothing near Omeath.

Immediately the world’s media decesended on Dundalk and camped outside of the station.

The Coalition Government of Liam Cosgrove was in a spin, with Foreign Minister, Garret FitzGerald unable to handle the hottest political potato that had landed in his lap. It was a real Ponchus Pilot dilemma for the Minister. If he released the eight without charge he was giving a licence to others to behave in the same lawless fashion, and if he processed them through the courts and they were found guilty, relationships with the British would plummet.

News of the arrests spread like wild fire round Dundalk, the presence of TV cameras outside the Barracks an obvious indicator of the unfolding drama. Soon a large crowd gathered adding to the concern that the Barracks could be attacked in the volatile situation and suspicion that existed after the murder of Seamus Ludlow.

Inside the eight were oblivious to the unfolding drama. When many suspected that they were being grilled about their movements, the eight, who refused to speak only to confirm their identity were, it can now be revealed, playing pool in the Garda recreation room.

Around six o’clock and with the tension mounting it was decided that it was unsafe to detain the men in Dundalk. They were moved, again under heavy armed escort to Dublin. As they were smuggled out of Dundalk Barracks, there were jeers and boos from the assembled crowd.

The men were driven straight to the Special Criminal Court where, before Mr. Justice Pringle, they were charged with possession of firearms with intent to endanger life and for carrying firearms without a certificate. They were released on bail of £5,000 each and driven from the courthouse to be helicoptered out of the country.

The British Army in the North issued a statement indicating that the men in the first car crossed the Border by mistake and the second car was searching for them when they too were arrested.

In the British House of Commons the Army Minister, Bob Brown apologised to the Irish Government, but said that there was no doubt that the incursion was a mistake.

This did not placate an angry Dail as the political fall out scattered over the chamber in the weeks following.

Dr. FitzGerald was asked that in light of the assurance given by the British Government that their forces would not operate in civilian attire what now was the Government’s response. “Troops in uniform are clearly identifiable, but this SAS unit was not and the men were carrying guns (pump action shotguns) not used by any army in the world but by thugs and criminals”.

They were, the Dail was told by Deputy Dowling, operating on what was termed “a search and destroy mission”.

However, Dr. FitzGerald refused to answer any specific questions on the incursion and hid behind the reply “that the matter was sub judice” since it was before the courts.

That was where it remained until the heat ebbed out of situation, even though Jack Lynch, then leader of the opposition told the Minister that “people are genuinely apprehensive about army personnel travelling on our side of the Border in unconventional garb carrying unconventional weapons”.

It was a day, and a time, unlike few others in Dundalk.

I Top

Download the Barron Report on the murder of Seamus Ludlow from the Oireachtas website (pdf file)

Download the Final Oireachtas Sub-Committee Report on the murder of Seamus Ludlow from the Oireachtas website (pdf file)


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Copyright © 2006 the Ludlow family. All rights reserved.
Revised: May 07, 2006