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The Dundalk Democrat, 30 November 2005:

Jimmy fights system to get justice for uncle

Jimmy Sharkey, nephew of murder victim  Seamus LudlowReal People

The Big Interview


Jimmy Sharkey

Real LivesSeamus Ludlow, murdered 2 May 1976.

By Paul Mulholland

The release of the Barron Report on the murder of Seamus Ludlow confirmed what his family had been saying for years. Mr Ludlow was killed  by a loyalist gang on 1 May 1976 on his way home to Thistle Cross, Mountpleasant. Although the gardai knew this information at the time of the investigation, the report reveals that they never pursued the men involved despite knowing their identity. Instead, they claimed for years that the crime was perpetrated by the IRA.

Jimmy Sharkey, Seamus' nephew, said he was very happy about the findings.

"I'm delighted about what Justice Barron did. It went further than I thought it would. Let's hope now it's a stepping stone for a full public inquiry."

The report says that the  decision not to pursue the men was made by Deputy Commissioner, Laurence Wren and that he was likely to have discussed it with senior gardai and the Department of Justice. They feared that if they went after the men in the North the RUC  would demand similar rights from the gardai.

Mr Sharkey puts the blame on the senior gardai and political agendas.

"The gardai at a local level were just doing what they were told. The report tries to blame Wren but I don't think that he would have the power to suppress all that information. I have always said it was because of the Cosgrave government that the case was dropped. I'm not a Republican, but the whole focus of their agenda was against the IRA. Fifty-six people were killed by people from the North in Ireland between 1973 and 1977 and none of them were caught. They feared that if they went after them they would start a civil war."

Mr Sharkey  reveals that the mid-70s was a dangerous time for the border counties in particular. He  points to the spate of bombings that hit Dublin and Monaghan in 1974, Dundalk in 1975, and Castleblayney in 1976. Also, the Reavey and O'Dowd murders in 1975 by loyalist paramilitaries were responded to by the IRA with the Kingsmill Massacre in South Armagh.

"These were violent times. I was young, in my teens and Dundalk just wasn't a safe place to live in. Whenever we travelled we did it in groups and we never got into cars with strangers."

He said one of the saddest aspects of Seamus' death is that he was such a quiet, unassuming man, who had no real interest in politics.

"If there was a row in the pub he would walk out. The murders at Kingsmill really upset him. He could not stand violence of any kind. That is what makes it so unfortunate that he met with a violent death himself."

Mr Sharkey says that he was treated very badly by the gardai in the aftermath of the murder.

"The second time I was interviewed by them their demeanour had changed. They were never sympathetic  to the family just aggressive. They kept saying that the IRA did it. Some of the older members of the family believed them. They didn't think that the gardai could do any wrong."

The case was laid to rest in a couple of weeks. Kevin Ludlow, Seamus' brother called the gardai once a year and asked if they had any new information. They still maintained that the IRA committed the crime.

It was not until 1996, when an investigative journalist named Joe Tiernan approached the family, that things began to develop. Tiernan said that a retired detective now living in Drogheda, told him that the murderers were from Dundonald and Comber way, outside Belfast.

Mr Sharkey met with a garda superintendent, who told him that they knew everything about the case, down to  what the colour of the car the killers were driving in.

It was only when the superintendent learned that Mr Sharkey had the name of one of the group, that they took him seriously.

The family called on Garda Commissioner, Patrick Culligan to reopen the case, which he duly did.

The case was aided by a confession written by Paul Hosking, one of the killers, in the Sunday Tribune. He admitted that the loyalist group, of whom he was the driver, had come to kill a Republican target. They murdered Seamus only after they could not find this man.

They had an unsuccessful meeting with the then Minister for Justice, John O'Donoghue.

"He was very aggressive with us, asking why we were dragging all this up again. It reminded me of talking to the gardai at the time of the murder.

Dermot Ahern persuaded them to put the case before Justice Barron, who was in the process of reviewing the Dublin and Monaghan bombings as part of a private report. Although Mr Sharkey believed that this was nothing more than a delaying tactic, he agreed.

No family members attended the original inquest of the murder. At their behest, a second inquest was held this September. During the two day inquest, the jury was told to leave at different times when sensitive and legal details were being discussed, causing them at one stage to contemplate a full scale walk-out.

The report., as it turns out went beyond his original expectations. He still believes, however, that there is a bigger story left to tell.

"The public has a right to know what exactly happened here. We need to know why exactly the details were suppressed. Justice Barron did not have the power of subpoena and could not see some documents that are only available in a public inquiry."

As to whether a public inquiry will be carried out, Mr Sharkey says that is still very much up in the air. Public hearings will take place in January to see whether anybody can bring any evidence to the table and then a recommendation will be put forward. Justice Barron has said to Jimmy that they have a good case, because they have all the names of the people who committed the crime. After this, Mr Sharkey and his family may get a full apology from the gardai that they have been waiting on for 30 years.

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Revised: December 17, 2005 .