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    The Hamilton and Barron Enquiry

BIRW Report - The Barron Inquiry - Terms of Reference for Inquiry - Witness Account - Ludlow Family Account - Profile - Questions - Meeting the Police Ombudsman - 25th Anniversary - Ed Moloney Radio Interview - Photographs - Letter to  RUC - Press Release - Magill article 1999 - Press Coverage -


The Ludlow family has campaigned consistently for public inquiries in both jurisdictions in Ireland into the sectarian murder in County Louth of their dear relative Seamus Ludlow. 

Seamus was murdered by members of the outlawed Loyalist murder gang, the Red Hand Commando and the British Army's Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) on the night of 1st and 2nd May, 1976. The four suspects, whose names are all known to the Ludlow family, were arrested by the then Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in February 1998, but once again they have evaded the justice that they were protected from since 1976.

Former Chief Justice the late Liam Hamilton, appointed by Bertie Ahern, to conduct a private inquiry into the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings. Upon his death, his private inquiry was headed by Mr Justice Henry Barron..The Ludlow family demands a full accounting of the failure by both the Gardai and the RUC (now the Police Service for Northern Ireland or PSNI) to bring the killers to justice. They demand explanations and apologies for the smearing of the innocent victim and the covering-up of his murder to protect his killers who were identified very soon after the crime was committed. 

The Irish government hoped that the Ludlow family would accept the private Hamilton Inquiry (and, following his sudden death, the Barron), into the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings, something less than the public inquiry that had been demanded, but this private option was immediately rejected.

The only obstacle to the holding of a public inquiry, as stated in his official report by the Irish Victims Commissioner John Wilson - a report commissioned and accepted by the Dublin government - was the possibility of a pending prosecution of the four Loyalist suspects in the North. This possibility has been removed by the failure of the Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to bring charges against any of the suspects. Accordingly the Ludlow family affirmed its demand for a public inquiry to be convened at the earliest possible opportunity.

To date, neither the RUC nor the Gardai have issued an apology for their role in protecting Seamus Ludlow's killers and the British authorities in Belfast and their Irish counterparts in Dublin have not responded to the Ludlow family's just demands for a full and independent public inquiry. While the British remain utterly silent on this issue, in Dublin there remains a fierce reluctance to go beyond a private inquiry, like the Hamilton (or Barron) Inquiry, for any of the Loyalist atrocities that were committed south of the border.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who has appointed former Chief Justice Liam Hamilton to investigate the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings. Mr. Ahern has yet to meet with the Ludlow family.Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD announced on Sunday, 19th. December, 1999, that the outgoing Chief Justice, Mr. Liam Hamilton was being invited to "undertake a thorough examination, involving fact finding and assessment of all aspects of the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings and their sequel, including

   - the facts, causes and perpetrators of the bombings;

   - the nature, adequacy and extent of Garda investigations, including the adequacy of co-operation with and from the relevant authorities in Northern Ireland and the adequacy of the handling of scientific analyses of forensic evidence; and

   - the reasons why no prosecution took place, including whether and if so, by whom and to what extent the investigations were impeded. . .".

This was the closest that the Dublin authorities had come to acceding to the various family's' demands for a public inquiry in those cases, but it remained to be seen if the formula laid out in Mr. Ahern's statement was acceptable to all concerned. 

Still, the Ludlow family was mindful that their demand was for a genuine public inquiry, and that now that the Northern Ireland DPP was no longer standing in the way, there was no justification for Dublin's failure to convene such an inquiry, perhaps on lines similar to those of the  present British Saville Inquiry into the Bloody Sunday in Derry.

One thing is clear though - the Seamus Ludlow case was, at this stage at least, not even being considered by the Dublin government for the Hamilton Inquiry. Chief Justice Liam Hamilton was not being asked to look into the murder of Seamus Ludlow and the subsequent cover-up and smear campaign that has been the focus of the Ludlow family's campaign for truth and justice.

Therefore, the Ludlow family circle's attitude to the proposed Hamilton inquiry was largely irrelevant. The Ludlow family was given no choice to consider at the outset of the Hamilton Inquiry, though it was becoming increasingly clear that Hamilton could not produce the truth that was demanded by the Ludlow family, and was perhaps designed to ensure that the full truth of what was done would never be revealed.

The Ludlow family had every reason to believe that the murder of Seamus Ludlow should at least have been included in Mr. Ahern's inadequate proposals, however deficient they were when held up to close scrutiny. After all, four Loyalists were arrested by the RUC for questioning about that foul crime in February 1998; the Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had decided on 15 October 1999 that none of the four prime  suspects would be prosecuted; and the Ludlow family had received firm information from within the Gardai that confirmed their worst suspicions of an official cover-up. Not least among their concerns was the revelation of the existence of a long suppressed Garda file that contained the names of several suspects. The file had been received from the RUC, in the North, in 1979.

The proposed Hamilton inquiry did not satisfy the Ludlow family's demands, but at least it should initially have been an option for the family to consider: to accept or to reject. By the summer of 2000 it was all too clear that Hamilton was indeed falling far short of the Ludlow family's clear demands. The family, through their solicitor, continued to demand the holding of a full independent inquiry, where all necessary papers and witness would be examined in public. Meanwhile, the private Hamilton Inquiry was going nowhere, with expected dates for the conclusion of a first report not met - effectively stringing out the whole inquiry into the bombings of Dublin and Monaghan.

There were indications by the end of January 2000 that the Department of Justice in Dublin was looking at adding the Seamus Ludlow case to Mr. Justice Liam Hamilton's remit. The following statement from the Private Secretary at the Minister's office comes from a letter, dated 31 January, 2000,  to the Ludlow family's solicitor:

"The Minister believes that including the case of the late Mr. Ludlow as part of the remit of Mr. Justice Hamilton would be the most appropriate way to address the concerns which have been expressed about this case. Accordingly, he has asked me to tell you that he is minded to recommend to his colleagues in Government that the case be included in the remit of Mr. Justice Hamilton."

The Department of Justice called upon the Ludlow family's solicitor to inquire and inform the Minister of the Ludlow family's attitude to this approach. As Mr. Justice Liam Hamilton was due to commence his work very shortly, the Private Secretary said "it would be very much appreciated if you could respond to the Minister's proposal within the next week". 

Notably absent from the Private Secretary's letter was a response to the Ludlow family's repeated request for the releasing of the recent Garda investigation report from the 1998 inquiry headed by Chief Superintendent Ted Murphy, and other relevant files from 1976 and 1979. 

If the Minister for Justice was expecting immediate acceptance from the Ludlow family for a proposal that had neither been made public nor explained in great detail at that time, he was to be disappointed. The Ludlow family had not given up on its firm demands for a public inquiry and for access to Garda and RUC reports on the sectarian murder of Seamus Ludlow. There were still many questions to be examined before the Ludlow family could consider giving assent to the Minister's still private proposal for what was a private inquiry. 

The Hamilton Inquiry was not initially rejected outright, but the Ludlow family would require much more persuasion before they would accept something less than their basic demands of truth and justice through a public inquiry. Would the private Hamilton Inquiry satisfy all their demands? Would it uncover the whole truth about Seamus Ludlow's sectarian murder? Would it get to the bottom of the RUC and Garda cover-up which has kept Seamus Ludlow's UDR and Red Hand Commando killers immune from justice since 1976? 

Was the private Hamilton Inquiry any more than a last-ditch Dublin government attempt to control the release of relevant information, to limit damaging revelations and to protect the image and reputations of the Garda and others who may have serious questions to answer? Was it a genuine attempt to uncover the whole truth regardless of the consequence? Was it aimed only at bringing out the full unvarnished truth behind the shameful failure to bring to justice those responsible for heinous crimes in the Irish state? Would the various families be granted effective legal representation, with the absolute right to demand the release of files and to subpoena vital witnesses, who could be questioned under oath? 

If the answers to these questions is "No", then clearly the Hamilton Inquiry could surely not meet with the stated requirements of the Ludlow family. If the answers to these questions is "Yes", as Government statements seemed to say, then the Ludlow family could ask, why not go the full distance and establish a public inquiry? If there is truly nothing to hide, then there should be a public inquiry.

On 25 February, 2000, the Ludlow family's solicitor sent his response to the Minister for Justice, "reflecting the view of the family in relation to the similarities between this case and that of Pat Finucane". The solicitor referred to previous correspondence, saying that he was looking "forward to hearing from you in relation to this matter and in particular to receiving a copy of the Investigation Report." The solicitor concluded: "Again on behalf of the family we must emphasise the view that the case for a public inquiry is compelling and unanswerable. We look forward to hearing from you." The solicitor was still waiting more than four months later.

The Dublin government says that it intends that the Hamilton inquiry will "have full access to all files and papers of Government Departments and the Garda Siochana. The Government will also direct that all members of the Public Service and the Garda Siochana extend their full co-operation to him. Furthermore, the Taoiseach intends that the Government will seek the co-operation of the British authorities with the Chief Justice's examination.

"The results of the Chief Justice's inquiry will be presented to the Government, and there will follow "an examination of the report in public session by the "Joint Oireachhtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's Rights or a sub-committee of that Committee".

The following excerpt from the Statement by the Taoiseach on the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk Bombings (19th December, 1999) gives further details of the private process that the Minister for Justice would recommend to the Ludlow family, who remain opposed to this private alternative to a public inquiry:

(Because of the separation of powers between the Executive and the Legislature, it is not possible for the Government to direct the Oireachtas or a Committee of it to take a particular action. However, the Government would do everything in its power to ensure that the Committee took this action and, as there is cross-party support for this approach, the Government are confident that matters would unfold along the lines envisaged.)

"It is also envisaged by the Government by the Government that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's rights would direct that the report prepared by the Chief Justice be submitted to the Committee, in order for it to advise the Oireachtas as to what further action, if any, would be necessary to establish the truth of what happened.

"The Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Compellability, Privileges and Immunity of Witnesses) Act, 1997 enables the Oireachtas to confer power on an Oireachtas Committee to send for persons, papers and records and it is envisaged that these powers would be invoked, including at the stage where the Committee, in public session, considered the follow-up to be given to the report of the Chief Justice.

"The Government envisage that that this consideration will involve hearings at which

-  the Justice for the Forgotten Group, representing the injured and bereaved, would have the right to appear before, and be heard before, the Committee;

- the Committee would exercise powers to direct the material relevant to the findings of the report to be placed before it; and

- it would also exercise powers to call persons to appear before it to respond publicly to the report.

"As the Government see the matter, there would be three approaches open to the Committee:

(i) advise that the report achieved as far as possible the objective of finding out the truth and that no further action would be required or fruitful;

(ii) advise that the report did not achieve the objective which could only be done through a public inquiry; or

(iii) advise that the report did not achieve the objective and the Committee or a sub-committee of the Committee should examine the matter further (as outlined previously, the options available to such committees or sub-committees include public hearings and powers to send for persons, papers and records). . .".

It is for the Justice for the Forgotten group and the people bereaved and injured by the Dublin, Monaghan and Dundalk bombings to decide whether or not the private Hamilton Inquiry process, as outlined above, is appropriate to their demands. The Ludlow family accepts their right to make their own decisions in their own cases. The Ludlow family has considered Mr. Ahern's proposals for the Hamilton Inquiry and they are rejected as having no merit in meeting the family's stated demands.

The Dublin Government's ideas for extending the remit of the Hamilton Inquiry so that it would look also at the murder of Seamus Ludlow were outlined in further detail during Taoiseach's questions in Leinster House, Dublin, on 23 May 2000.  Mr. Ahern stated that this was his government's advice to the Ludlow family, who he accepts have "strong views and they are not yet satisfied that this is the best way to proceed". 

Mr. Ahern repeated his previous claim that he has met with the Ludlow family. Well, this is strange news to the late Seamus Ludlow's surviving brother, three sisters and many nephews and nieces and their families, for no Ludlow family group has ever met with Mr. Ahern. Requests for a meeting with Mr. Ahern have never been acknowledged.

Mr. Ahern went on to introduce various arguments which could later be used as an excuse for any failure of such an inquiry. For instance, Mr. Ahern said:

"As Deputy Quinn is aware, there are difficulties in the Seamus Ludlow case, including cross-jurisdictional issues. An added complication is that identifiable individuals were accused publicly in the case and the DPP in Northern Ireland, having considered evidence available there, decided not to prefer charges. This will make a public examination of the case difficult here. However, my view remains that an examination by the former Chief Justice is the best way to proceed."

Such arguments promote little confidence that the proposed Hamilton process could produce the desired results, or that it was ever intended to. Certainly nothing said by Mr. Ahern helped persuade the Ludlow family that the Hamilton process was the best way forward or any alternative to a public inquiry. 

Some useful points which that doubt helped guide the Ludlow family towards a final decision were made by the broadcaster and writer Don Mullan - noted author of the momentous Eyewitness Bloody Sunday and a soon to be published book about the Dublin and Monaghan Bombings - in a recent communication with a member of the family. Mr. Mullan, a valued supporter of the Ludlow family's campaign for justice, has advised:

"There will, no doubt, be linkages, especially regarding the perpetrators of the crimes and the collusion of British State forces.  However, I think it is important that we don't allow the government to submerge all incidents in a pot of political stew.  Each crime deserves to be examined on its own merits.  The dead and the bereaved are entitled to no less.

"It is certainly worth considering whether or not you should cooperate with a Hamilton Assessment of all the available evidence concerning Shamus's murder and your subsequent experience with the Garda 'Investigation'.  Whatever you decide, however, I think it is important you insist on allowing the Seamus Ludlow case to stand on its own, just as Dublin and Monaghan should stand on its own, along with the  Dundalk bombing and the 1972 Dublin bombing.

"Having said that, I think it is very important that each individual campaign should be united in a collective effort to support and encourage one another."

Mr. Mullan has raised important points here. Can an inquiry process dealing with more than one atrocity - the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974, the Dundalk bombing of 1975, and perhaps also the Castleblaney bombing and other Dublin bombings as well as Seamus Ludlow's murder,  treat each case on its own merits or will it seek out simple common denominators and thereby avoid close examination of the specifics of each case?

It is also important to the Ludlow family that all others  presently demanding truth and justice for other Loyalist/British forces crimes in the Irish state, and their many other victims north of the border, should collectively support each other. They are all victims of state violence and their plight has been ignored by the very state which has brought them grief and suffering. They all fully deserve the truth and justice that the British authorities have long denied them and the Ludlow family will support them in their just demands.

For more see: The Barron Inquiry and its Draft Terms of Reference  

(See links to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings campaign on the Ludlow family's Links page.)

To Top  I Home I I The Barron Inquiry I I Draft Terms of Reference I

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