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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)

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

Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights

Sub-Committee on the Barron Report on the Murder of Seamus Ludlow

Hearing, 24 January 2006

Open hearings of the Joint Oireachtas sub-committee on Justice's inquiry into the recently published Barron Report into the 1976 murder of Seamus Ludlow commenced on 24 January 2006 with submissions from several members of the extended Ludlow family. In the afternoon session important submissions were also made by Justice for the Forgotten and British Irish Rights Watch.

Joint Oireachtas sub-committee sessions continued the following week on 31 January and 1 February, with important evidence taken from retired Gardai and former politicians, as well as the current Garda Commissioner. 

  • Excerpt from the Morning session, taken from the official Transcript:
    10.00 am - Members of the Ludlow family

    • Michael Donegan (nephew of the late Seamus Ludlow)

Chairman: I thank Mrs Fox.  I know how difficult this is for her and the sub-committee appreciates her attendance.

We will now deal with Michael Donegan who is a nephew of Seamus Ludlow.   Michael Donegan is a son of Kevin Donegan, who, we know from the report, was questioned by the British in Northern Ireland and there was considerable toing and froing.  I am very disappointed that we have still not been able to receive from the Northern Ireland authorities any information of any description regarding Mr. Donegan's interviewing, particularly considering that helicopter travel was involved.  One would assume there would be information regarding the trips for helicopters.  Even that information has been withheld and has not been forthcoming.  I state our utter disappointment with the authorities in Northern Ireland for their non-co-operation with us.  I hope I have not put Mr. Donegan out in any way.

Mr. Michael Donegan: Not at all.

Chairman: I ask him to tell us what he would like to say.

Mr. Donegan: I thank the committee for having us here.  We welcome this opportunity to speak publicly for the first time.  As the members will realise I come from Northern skies.  I may have a different perspective on this matter.  I had no contact with the Garda, although the Chairman mentioned my father, who did, over a period of months following the killing.  He went to Dundalk and met several detectives.  He just wanted to know what the score was - what was happening.  He had, in his early life, been in the Defence Forces of this State for 14 years and basically believed that if he heard it from Garda then it must be true.  He basically believed them.

They told him the IRA did it and not only that the IRA did it, but that it was a family affair.  They told him that members of the family were involved in it.  It was a set up.  They set Uncle Seamus up.  They told him that members of the family actually took part in the killing.  As I said, he was a man who basically believed what he was told by the Garda, even though what they told him did not make sense.  It caused all kinds of conflict in the house.  We knew there was no way that man was killed by the IRA.  There was just no way on God's earth that he was an informer.  There was no way that any member of the family would ever be involved in such a thing.  There is no question about it; the killing traumatised the family, turned us upside down.  To a large extent it put our lives on hold for the next 30 years, which is why we are here today.

He met these gardaí over a number of months and they just kept putting it home to him: the IRA, the IRA, the IRA.  He went to his grave with that belief: that it was the IRA, because of what they told him.  There is no question that it caused a lot of conflict in my house.  I am not going to try to avoid it now.

He also comes into the picture as the day after Uncle Seamus was buried, a party of British soldiers came to our house.  We live in a place called Drumintee, just a few miles across the Border close to Forkhill Barracks.  My father opened the door to them and they told him they were sent by the RUC to ask some questions of my mother, who was the sister of Seamus Ludlow.  It was very strange, when I think about it, that they knew my mother was Seamus Ludlow's sister.  Some of our neighbours did not know that; the British Army did.  My father told them it had nothing to do with them, they were not police, this was not their jurisdiction and that they should go away.  They insisted they were going to get the answers they were looking for.  When eventually my mother came out to see what was going on, they started putting questions to her, such as why the IRA would do that to her brother as surely to God it would not do that for nothing.  They suggested he must have been involved in something, must have been a bad man and deserved it.  This went on for some time.

When they departed, my father got on a bicycle, cycled the two miles to Forkhill to take it up with the RUC, to make a complaint.  When he got there, apparently there were no RUC officers available or if they were there they were not interested in him.  He was then abducted, put aboard a British military helicopter and flown to Bessbrook where he was interrogated for over an hour by a military intelligence officer.  He did not speak about it much, but he always said the one thing they wanted to know was what the Garda knew and was thinking, and what was its line of inquiry.

He was away from home for more than an hour.  My mother became rather concerned because Forkhill is only a short distance away - about ten minutes on a bicycle, there and back - and he had not returned.  She telephoned the barracks and was told they had never heard of him.  She became very concerned and telephoned the local councillor.  Like the good man that he was, he jumped in his car and drove straight to Forkhill.  He was satisfied that my father was not there.  At first, they would not tell him where my father was.  Eventually, he got it out of them that my father was in Bessbrook.  He then drove to Bessbrook to bring my father home.

We never really told the story to many people.  I was amazed years later when I read Monsignor Murray's book, The SAS in Ireland, to find that the story was there.  I do not know how he found out about it.  I presume he got it from the late councillor I have mentioned because he did not get it from us.  The family believed at the time that the British Army had some interest in and knowledge of this case.  A murder in Dundalk should not have been any of its business.  Really, it should not have been at our door asking questions about it.  I firmly believe that they - the British Army - probably knew about this from day one.  They were just trying to track what we knew and what the gardaí knew.

We have lived continually in the south Armagh area for all those years.  I do not think there is anyone in the area who really believes that uncle Seamus was an informer, even though these rumours were out there.  The rumours never went away.  It would be wrong to assume that the rumours just came from the gardaí - they did not.  I have with me copies of two books - two scurrilous publications - written about the SAS, both of which state as a fact that uncle Seamus was an informer who was murdered by the IRA.  I presume that the source of that information is the British Army. Clearly, the rumour mill was North and South.

Someone saw it expedient to denigrate the memory of this good man and to bring all kinds of hurt to our family because of this.  They did not care who he was - he was expendable and we were expendable.  We have only heard in the last ten years that the RUC had a file in 1977.  The RUC never came to us in Dromintee in 1977, or in 1979 or in 1998.  Indeed, from the day the British Army was at our door, the RUC has never ever come near the Donegan family about this case.  It has never shown us any consideration whatsoever.

I firmly believe and my family believes the only way we are going to get this thrashed out is in a full-blown public inquiry, where we are able to name names in such a way we cannot do today.  We have come here today knowing we are under restrictions, just as the sub-committee is under restrictions.  It is clear that some issues cannot be thrashed out here.  I firmly believe they can only be thrashed out at a public inquiry, where witnesses can be compelled to appear and to give evidence and where documents can be compelled.  If it means the British do not co-operate, so be it.  That does not mean an inquiry cannot go ahead.  The British can be shamed for their non-appearance.  They should be ashamed.  We have been waiting for 30 years.  I have gone grey in that time.  As I said, our lives are on hold.

This should be behind us a long time ago.  Several members of the family have passed away.  Since we started this more recent track in the last ten years, I have lost three cousins.  Mrs. Eileen Fox has lost a daughter, Maria, who died suddenly and cannot be here today.  Another cousin, Mr. Brendan Larkin, would be sitting at this table if he were alive.  His sister is Mrs. Dolores Flanagan.  We do not have time.  I do not think we can afford to wait another five years, or whatever, down the line.  We need the truth now.  We need justice now.  I ask the sub-committee to think carefully and to give us a public inquiry.

Chairman: I thank Mr. Donegan.  I invite Deputies Hoctor and Costello to ask some questions.

Deputy Hoctor: I thank the Chair and Mr. Donegan.  I would like Mr. Donegan to clarify a couple of points.  Was Mr. Donegan's mother, Kathleen, a sister of Seamus Ludlow's?

Mr. Donegan: Yes.

Deputy Hoctor: This very unusual event was made even more unusual by the questioning of Mr. Donegan's father rather than his mother.  Can he comment on that?

Mr. Donegan: He was the one who went to Forkhill whereas my mother did not.  The abduction would have happened to whomever had gone there.  It was a traumatic experience for him to be put in a helicopter and whisked away.  Not everybody wanted to get into a noisy machine like a helicopter over south Armagh in what were dangerous times.

Deputy Hoctor: Was Mr. Donegan's mother questioned at all?

Mr. Donegan: She was only questioned at the door of the house.  They were there for 20 to 30 minutes demanding information from her.  She was disgusted because it was none of their business.  They were not police and although it did not even happen in the North, they were making it their business.  They came in a party in the name of the RUC, who were not interested and have not bothered us about it since.

Deputy Hoctor: Mr. Donegan said it appeared to him that there was British interest in the case.  What other conclusions has he drawn?

Mr. Donegan: At the time, I believed the SAS was involved.  There was a famous incident on the south Armagh-north Louth Border around that time when eight SAS officers were taken by the Garda.  Their weapons were checked to see if they were used in this case which indicates a level of suspicion that the SAS was involved.  My radar was definitely pointed in that direction and, possibly, at loyalists.  I do not know what the cover-up is about and why the Garda spread lies among the family, tried to spilt us apart, kept us away from the inquest, withheld new information which came forward and has refused to apologise.  A public inquiry is required to get these people in front of us to tell us how it was.  They seem to be running away from us.

Deputy Hoctor: Has Mr. Donegan come up with any reasons as to why the false impression about Seamus was not rectified by the Garda or the British authorities?

Mr. Donegan: He was a lone victim and, as such, vulnerable to being defamed.  He was not killed in a bombing and was the clear victim of a random act, somebody picked him out.  We know who picked him out but they did not know or care who he was.  The implication is that if he was picked out, maybe he deserved it, from which idea I totally disassociate myself.  That is the source of the rumours.  It was felt that he was a likely one and that he could be framed while matters it was wished to keep from the public could be covered up.  I do not know why they wanted to do this or what was their motive in failing to go after the killers when they knew who they were from fairly early on.  Apparently, they knew within three months that it was not the IRA, but they never told us that.  They harped on throughout the years - not to me but to my relatives - that it was the IRA and they even named a member of the family as a person involved in the killing.  That is hard to take.

Deputy Hoctor: I thank Mr. Donegan very much.

Deputy Costello: I thank Mr. Donegan for his account.  The British army personnel arrived at the home of Mr. Donegan's parents the day after the burial.  How did they arrive?  Were they in uniform or plain clothes?

Mr. Donegan: They were in uniform.  I do not know if they walked to the area or came by helicopter, but they stood at the door in uniform.

Deputy Costello: Does Mr. Donegan have any idea of their rank?

Mr. Donegan: No, I was not present.  I was at work and it was all over when I came home.

Deputy Costello: Mr. Donegan's father never mentioned their rank and the soldiers did not identify themselves as ranking officers.

Mr. Donegan: No, they were just soldiers.  I imagine one of them was a junior officer but I cannot vouch for that.

Deputy Costello: Their main statement or allegation was that Seamus had been killed by the IRA.

Mr. Donegan: Yes, they said that as a fact.  They came to establish as fact that Seamus was killed by the IRA and must have deserved it and that he must have been a bad man.

Deputy Costello: That seemed to be their belief.

Mr. Donegan: Yes.

Deputy Costello: There was never a suggestion as to from where that belief had come. 

Mr. Donegan: I think it came from whomever sent the soldiers to our door.  I do not think the soldiers who came to our door knew anything about the case. They came to do a job and were told what to do. They were sent by somebody to deliver that message and drive that point home, whether they knew it was right or not. Somebody in Forkhill, Bessbrook or wherever sent them to do it. They wanted to establish the fact that Seamus was killed by the IRA and must have deserved it. The implication, of course, is that he was an informer.

Deputy Costello: Mr. Donegan's father ran them out the gate and told them to get lost.

Mr. Donegan: Yes, but they would not do so.

Deputy Costello: They told him he had to make himself available at Forkhill RUC station.

Mr. Donegan: Yes, but he did not go to Forkhill because they told him.  He went because he wanted to sort out the matter with the RUC.

Deputy Costello: He went to Forkhill RUC station.

Mr. Donegan: Yes.

Deputy Costello: He was then questioned there by military people, not the RUC.

Mr. Donegan: I do not think any members of the RUC were available.  If they were there, they were not interested in him.

Deputy Costello: It was, therefore, a British military operation.

Mr. Donegan: It was a military operation which apparently had nothing to do with the RUC.  They bundled him onto a chopper and sent him to Bessbrook where he was interrogated.

Deputy Costello: The Barron report states that the line of inquiry pursued related to the Garda line of inquiry.  Had Mr. Donegan's father already spoken to the Garda at that stage?

Mr. Donegan: I do not think so.  He had discussions with some detectives over a subsequent period of months.  I think this incident took place on the day after the funeral.  When there is a death in a family, particularly a very traumatic death such as Seamus's, families become very closed in.  I do not think my father had any discussion with the Garda.  I do not even think he saw any gardaí.

Deputy Costello: Did he speak to the Garda later on?

Mr. Donegan: Yes, he did so on several occasions and gardaí convinced him that the IRA did it.

Deputy Costello: They convinced him.

Mr. Donegan: Yes.

Deputy Costello: They reached the same conclusion as that reached by the British Army. 

Mr. Donegan: Yes, they were singing from the hymn sheet on both sides of the Border.  The same message was coming across.  They wanted us to believe the IRA killed Seamus and that somebody in the family was involved.  If the family is divided, by definition we are not united and in no fit state to oppose the censorship taking place around us or question what is going on.  To some extent, that worked over the years.

Deputy Costello: The impression given to Mr. Donegan's family from the beginning was that the IRA was involved.

Mr. Donegan: That is a fact.  My father got that impression on both sides of the Border. 

Deputy Costello: Why did the security authorities on both sides of the Border come up with the same false statement or allegation?

Mr. Donegan: If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would imagine that gardaí in Dundalk probably knew more than they are still letting on and that they were probably aware that something was happening in Dundalk that night.  We have information that a certain individual was being sought in Dundalk that night.  There was a target.  The cover story we have been told is that there was a drinking spree and they just happened to find themselves in Dundalk but we know they were there to kill a man whom they subsequently did not find.

Deputy Costello: Who were in Dundalk?

Mr. Donegan: The four loyalists were in Dundalk to kill an individual.  They could not find him and it was while on their way home that they came upon our uncle.

Deputy Costello: Does Mr. Donegan believe that the British Army was connected in some way with this case?

  Mr. Donegan: I believe the British Army and the RUC have been always connected with such cases and evidence is growing all the time about their involvement with the loyalist death squads.  I am convinced of that.

Deputy Costello: Does Mr. Donegan believe that the questioning of his father was related in some way?

Mr. Donegan:  I do.  I believe people in the British Army in Bessbrook or Forkhill also had knowledge of what happened or what was going down in Dundalk that night and they wanted to know what we knew and, more important, what the Garda knew.

Deputy Costello: Does Mr. Donegan believe it was something of a trawling expedition?

Mr. Donegan: That is what I believe.

Deputy Costello: Did the army ever come back again to your family home?

Mr. Donegan: Oddly enough, no.  That was it.

Deputy Costello: There was an initial visit.  Mr. Donegan's father travelled; then he was taken in a helicopter.  It all took place in the space of one day.

Mr. Donegan: Yes.  That was it.  My father continued to have meetings with the Garda, south of the Border, over the following months but never again with the British army or the RUC.

Deputy Costello: Is it Mr. Donegan's belief this was a quite deliberate attempt by the army to find out what it could in relation to it-----

Mr. Donegan: Yes.

Deputy Costello: -----and that it reflected a connection in regard to an activity?

Mr. Donegan: I believe it had knowledge, if not prior knowledge.  It just wanted to know what we and the Garda knew.  I believe it was checking its cover.

Deputy Costello: How firm is Mr. Donegan's information that there might have been a different hit target?

Mr. Donegan: It is very firm.  As I said, we have a name.  I have a note here.  Does Deputy Peter Power wish to ask a question?

Deputy P. Power: I have just one very brief question.  Everybody here was impressed by Mr. Donegan's command of the detail of what happened at the time.  However, he said he did not know why the Garda would come up with a tissue of lies.  With his knowledge, could he not speculate in order that we could examine the possibility of why the Garda would go through an elaborate sham when it had no evidence to back it up?

Mr. Donegan: To be quite honest, I do not think speculation would be very useful.  That is why we want a public inquiry, in order that we can get away from the speculation.  Let us get to the facts.

Chairman: We have to stick to policy in this matter.  We will move on from there and come back to that point.  Deputy Costello will ask a brief final question.

Deputy Costello: My question relates to the inquest.  Was any attempt made to contact Mr. Donegan's family?

Mr. Donegan: Not at all. The first we heard of the inquest was in the following weeks in the Dundalk Democrat.  That hurt a lot.  We heard along with the rest.  People came up to us and asked what had happened but we did not know.  It was embarrassing to find we did not know what had gone on at the inquest into how our loved one had been murdered in such foul circumstances.  We knew nothing about it.  Nobody else was approached.  My aunts, Mrs. Nan Sharkey and Mrs. Eileen Fox, live at Thistle Cross, next door to each other where my uncle, Seamus Ludlow, had lived.  The garda responsible for informing the family was stationed at Dromad.  He would have had to drive past their houses to go to Dundalk, yet he could not drop in to let them know about the inquest.

Chairman: We are getting very close to the bone.  Does Senator Walsh have a question?

Senator J. Walsh: I appreciate Mr. Donegan might not be able to answer this question but to the best of his knowledge, did the Garda ever interview or take a statement from his father with regard to that whole episode?

Mr. Donegan: To be quite honest, I do not know.  I know he met them on a number of occasions.  He met them once or twice in a car.  A statement would hardly have been made in that kind of situation but he went to the barracks at least twice.

Deputy F. McGrath: Regarding Mr. Donegan's oral submission on the murder of Mr. Seamus Ludlow and his suspicion about security forces involvement, would he agree the answer to his question is that because members of the security forces were involved in the murder, we will not get the answers?  There is a whole murky field on the issue of the security services operating on both sides of the Border at the time.

Chairman: We are not here to apportion responsibility.

Deputy F. McGrath: Mr. Donegan has answered the question.

Mr. Donegan: There is a murky field.

Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Donegan.  It is very difficult for everyone here, especially, as Mr. McGuill said, with the constrictions in regard to the Ardagh v. Maguire case.  Mr. Donegan's remarks have been very illuminating and helpful.

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Revised: February 07, 2006