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The Argus (Dundalk), 15 February 2006:

Minister for Justice apologises to family but no public inquiry

Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell has apologised to the family of the late Seamus Ludlow for the way they were treated by the state, but has cast doubt on the possibility of a public inquiry into his murder.

The family of Mr Ludlow, a single man and forestry worker, who was shot dead on May 2nd, 1976, at Thistle Cross as he went home after a night out, have been campaigning for such an inquiry to be held.

But the Minister at the Joint Oireachtas sub-committee on Justice, which is considering the Barron report into his murder, stated there were serious constitutional issues about setting up an inquiry to effectively mimic a criminal trial 30 years after the crime.

The Barron report has sharply criticised the garda investigation into his death, noting that the RUC told the gardaí in 1979 that it believed four named loyalists were involved in the murder, but this line of investigation wasn’t pursued.

Barron also found that the deceased had no connection with any subversive organisation.

Journalist Ed Maloney, who in 1998 wrote about the murder in the Sunday Tribune and interviewed a suspect, told the committee last Wednesday that he disagreed with the Minister, and called for a public inquiry to make recompense to the family.

Solicitor Francis Keenan, who attended with Mr Moloney, revealed that an unnamed client would be willing to give evidence at an independent judicial inquiry.

However, the Minister said serious constitutional difficulties would surround a public inquiry to establish whether someone did or did not commit a crime 10, 20, 30 years earlier.

" If the committee came to the conclusion that the (Garda) investigation was an unsatisfactory investigation, it still doesn't follow that it would be lawful for the state to establish an inquiry," said the Minister.

The fact that the DPP in Northern Ireland was right in 1999 to say there was insufficient evidence to charge the four suspects, with which the DPP in the state concurred, added to the constitutional issues which the tribunal would have to contend with, said the Minister.

He added that the Ludlow case was 'not closed', saying that gardai would still interview suspects in relation to the murder.

But Mr Moloney contended that the family had been treated abominably.

"A full public inquiry would only begin to make recompense. I do not agree with the Minister. It flies in the face of his own Government policy to support the Bloody Sunday inquiry and that was 30 years later. The Government supported that, so why not this?"

Mr Moloney said it was not the job of a public inquiry to try the suspects but to inquire into whether the state fell down in its duty in investigating the murder.

The question had to be asked, no matter how awkward or embarrassing. Was one of the killers a loyalist paramilitary, an agent of British intelligence, and was it covered up by the RUC and the gardai, he said.

He interviewed one of the four suspects. He wasn't at liberty to describe details, but he would tell a public inquiry.

Mr Keenan said, "I have received instructions from another client, who, for obvious reasons I cannot name, that in the event of an independent, judicial inquiry and he is satisfied with the guarantees offered to him, would be willing to appear and give evidence."

See also: 

The Newry Democrat, 14 February 2006: McDowell's 'slap in face' for Ludlows

The Irish Times, 9 February 2006: McDowell reluctant to inquire into Ludlow shooting

The Irish Independent, 9 February 2006: McDowell apology to Ludlow family over State's role

The Irish Examiner, 9 February 2006: McDowell apologises to Ludlow family

Daily Ireland, 9 February 2006: McDowell spurns Ludlow inquiry

The Irish News, 9 February 2006: Ludlow family accept apology

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Download the Barron Report from the Oireachtas website (pdf file)


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Copyright © 2006 the Ludlow family. All rights reserved.
Revised: February 19, 2006