A public inquiry into the murder of a Dundalk forestry worker 30 years ago could pose serious constitutional difficulties, an Oireachtas subcommittee heard yesterday.

Séamus Ludlow (47) was shot dead as he walked home from the pub on May 2, 1976. The gardaí failed to follow up on subsequent information from the Royal Ulster Constabulary that four named loyalists were responsible.

Justice minister Michael McDowell told the Oireachtas subcommittee on justice that the subcommittee members would have to consider whether it was appropriate to set up the public inquiry being demanded by the Ludlow family.

“There are serious constitutional issues directed at whether someone did or did not commit a crime five, ten or 30 years later,” he said.
“It still doesn’t follow that it would be lawful for the state to set up an inquiry, in effect to mimic a criminal trial.”

The justice subcommittee is examining the report of Judge Henry Barron, who found there had been serious deficiencies in the way gardaí dealt with the Ludlow murder investigation.

Minister McDowell apologised to the Ludlow family, who were present at the hearing yesterday, for the inadequate state response.

“On the basis of the findings of the Barron report, the Ludlow family undoubtedly has a sound basis for feeling aggrieved at a number of events surrounding the murder, including events relating to the interview of suspects and the original coroner’s inquest,” he said