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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

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. 

Public Hearings on the Barron Report. Opening: 24 January 2006:

Chairman: I welcome, in particular, the members of the Ludlow-Sharkey family and thank them for attending.  I also welcome their solicitor, Mr. James McGuill.  The sub-committee expresses its deepest sympathy to the relatives of the late Mr. Ludlow.  We hope the publication of the third Barron report on the murder of Seamus Ludlow and the hearings which will be conducted by the sub-committee over the next four weeks will help the family in finding closure over his tragic death. 

On 3 November 2005 the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights was asked by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann to consider the report of the independent commission of inquiry on the murder of Seamus Ludlow and the observations made thereon by former Commissioner Wren and Mr. Justice Barron.  This sub-committee was established for that purpose.  We have been asked to consider the report in public session in order that the joint committee can report back to Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann by 31 March for the purposes of making such recommendations as the committee considers appropriate and any changes to legislative provisions and the legislative and other changes, if any, required in regard to the notification to the next of kin of inquests in regard to murders or deaths in suspicious circumstances. 

This is the third set of hearings on inquiries made by Mr. Justice Barron.  The first two have proved this kind of parliamentary activity to be vital and necessary for looking into events which have cast a long shadow over our country and the tragic history of this island during the past 35 to 36 years. 

The sub-committee is composed of seven members.  I am Chairman of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights and also of the sub-committee, the other members of which are Deputy Máire Hoctor, the Government convenor on the joint committee; Deputy Finian McGrath, Independent Deputy for Dublin North-Central; Deputy Joe Costello, Labour Party spokesperson on justice and law reform; Deputy Peter Power, a Fianna Fáil Deputy for Limerick East; Deputy Gerard Murphy of Fine Gael, Vice Chairman of the joint committee, and Senator Jim Walsh, Fianna Fáil spokesperson on justice and law reform in the Seanad.  Mr. Hugh Mohan, senior counsel, is advising the sub-committee with Mr. Paul Anthony McDermott.

The contributions of Mr. Ludlow's relatives are invaluable to the workings of the sub-committee.  I formally thank them for their attendance this morning.  The sub-committee wanted to commence the hearings by hearing what the Ludlow-Sharkey family had to say in order to place it at the centre of the work we were doing.  I hope it feels and understands that purpose.

I want to go through some matters arising from Mr. Justice Barron's report to give context to our deliberations for the wider audience.  Judge Barron begins by stating: 

Seamus Ludlow, a 47 year old, unmarried forestry worker from Thistle Cross, Dundalk, County Louth, was killed in the early hours of the morning on 2 May 1976.  He was shot a number of times.  To date, no one has been charged in relation to his death.

On 30 January 1979 a letter was sent from the RUC Chief Constable's office to Chief Superintendent, Security and Intelligence, Garda Heardquarters, Dublin.  It was headed, "Murder of Seamus Ludlow at Ravensdale, County Louth on 2 May 1976", and read as follows:

It has been learned from a source believed to be reliable that the [.....] members of the Red Hand Commandos (RHC) were involved in the murder of Seamus Ludlow at Ravensdale, County Louth, on 2 May 1976.

The RUC had also offered to arrange interviews with two of the suspects but it seems the offer was not taken up at the time.

Towards the end of 1995, members of the Ludlow-Sharkey family received information from a journalist to the effect that a group of loyalist extremists from mid-Ulster was responsible for Seamus's murder.  Over a series of meetings, the journalist named specific persons whom he believed should have been suspects for the murder.  He suggested that the family hold a press conference and also contact the Garda Commissioner with this information.

On 2 May 1996, the 20th anniversary of Seamus's death, a press conference was held by the family in Dublin.  A letter was also sent to the then Garda Commissioner.  The letter expressed concern at the failure to effect a prosecution in the case and at "the general conduct of the investigation by the Gardaí at the time".  In particular, it was said that in the period following the murder, the family had been led to believe, by individual gardaí, that republican paramilitaries were responsible.  The letter concluded:

We would greatly appreciate, therefore, if you as Garda Commissioner could see your way to order a new investigation into the murder with a view to bringing to justice those responsible for this terrible crime.  The Ludlow-Sharkey family pledge its total and full co-operation in any such new investigation and undertake to provide the Gardaí with the name of the person believed to be the killer.  We should point out however that we understand the gardaí already possess this information.

A new investigation was ordered by the then Commissioner and this reactivation of the case brought to light information received from the RUC in 1979 concerning four loyalist suspects for the killing.  When this was brought to the attention of the Commissioner in 1997, contact was made with the RUC and the four men were arrested by RUC officers in February 1998.  The four, whose names were not among those given to the Ludlow-Sharkey family by the journalist in 1995-96, were interviewed and released.  A file was then sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland for a decision on whether charges should be preferred against these men.  No prosecution was brought.

In 2003, the then Commissioner replied to a letter sent by the inquiry - that is, Mr. Justice Barron's inquiry - regarding the failure of the Garda to question the suspects in 1979.  Mr. Justice Barron concludes that Seamus Ludlow was murdered by loyalist extremists, seemingly at random.  He states that the original investigation of 1976 was conducted competently and diligently by gardaí and that they are in no way to blame for the failure to identify the killers.

The key question for the inquiry was why the information supplied by the RUC in 1979 was not pursued.  The inquiry believes that the only credible explanation for this is that a direction was given to the investigating officer at the time to abandon plans to have the suspects interviewed outside the jurisdiction.  As to why this might have been the case, the inquiry has stated that such a policy may have led to demands for reciprocal arrangements being demanded by the RUC.  The inquiry states:

Such a policy could have arisen out of a combination of one or more of the following factors:

1) A risk that republican subversives would target RUC officers coming

to this jurisdiction;

2) A risk that republican subversives would view such co-operation with the RUC as a justification for attacking members of An Garda Síochána; and

3) A fear of the political consequences arising from the fact that a certain sector of the population would perceive any co-operation with the RUC in this State as a ceding of sovereignty to the British Government.

In considering these matters, it is very important that they should be viewed in the context of the times.  The period 1976-1980 was one of huge turmoil.  Deep divisions and distrust existed, not only between the Nationalist and Unionist communities in Northern Ireland, but also between the governments of the United Kingdom and this State.

The Inquiry has been told that the British Government were pressing for greater co-operation on three security-related matters: hot pursuit across the border; permission for RUC officers to question suspects in the State, and overflights by British military aircraft.  These three issues evoked strong reactions amongst ordinary people in the State, and such popular opposition was inevitably reflected in the policies and attitudes of the Gardaí and successive governments.

In the matter of the inquest, Mr. Justice Barron states that there appears to have been no justification for the failure to notify Kevin Ludlow of the date of the inquest into his brother's death.  Given the nature and circumstances of the death, other family members should also have been notified.  The fact that the inquest proceeded reflects a belief that because the cause of death was undisputed, the inquest procedure was a formality.  While this was technically true, the decision to proceed in the absence of family members caused them unnecessary hurt and annoyance at a time of extraordinary sadness and difficulty in their lives.

The sub-committee will hear today from individual members of the Ludlow-Sharkey family, whom I again sincerely thank for their attendance.  The sub-committee wanted to commence by hearing from the people most affected by this tragic event.  In the afternoon session, it will hear from Justice for the Forgotten and British Irish Rights Watch.  I welcome Mrs. Margaret Irwin, the secretary of Justice for the Forgotten and Cormac Ó Dúlacháin who are in the Public Gallery.

On the second day of proceedings, we will hear submissions from former Detective John Courtney and former Commissioner Lawrence Wren as well as other gardaí named in the report.  We will also hear from Mr. Gerry Collins, who was Minister for Justice in 1979, and Deputy McDowell, the current Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

In respect of the procedures and for the benefit of those present, it should be noted that the sub-committee is bound by very precise terms of reference beyond which it will not stray.  In particular, the sub-committee is not conducting an investigation of its own into the events that happened during the period concerned, nor is it seeking to apportion guilt or innocence to any individual person or body.  It has neither the jurisdiction nor the legal authority to perform any such function.  We ask everybody appearing before us to respect the fact that we cannot stray beyond our terms of reference.  Everyone who comes before us today and during the remainder of our hearings will do so voluntarily and we thank them all most sincerely for their attendance on that basis.

The sub-committee is very concerned that any person who appears before it is fully aware that he or she is not entitled to any form of statutory or parliamentary privilege.  While members enjoy certain parliamentary privilege in respect of these proceedings, those attending or assisting us do not enjoy that same privilege.

The sub-committee expresses its gratitude to Mr. Justice Barron for the work he and his staff have done in producing the report we are about to consider.  Before I invite Mr. Kevin Ludlow to speak, perhaps the representative from James McGuill Solicitors would like to make some introductory remarks.

Mr. James McGuill: The family are very grateful for the committee's invitation to participate today and will be adopting the position they have adopted with every former inquiry into this matter, which is one of open co-operation.  The committee will hear from the family how they feel that co-operation and good faith was not rewarded in the past and how they have felt let down by official bodies that they have had to deal with before.

We will not be making legal submissions at the outset because we have been in discussion with Mr. Mohan and the intention is that we will make a legal submission at the conclusion of the submissions to the sub-committee.  The submission, in short, will be to the effect that we are very anxious that the committee will, within its remit, examine the policy issues and considerations that are at play in this case.  We accept that, under the Supreme Court ruling in Ardagh v. Maguire, the sub-committee cannot really deal with the actual facts of the Seamus Ludlow case.  We will make a strong submission to the effect that this issue, the discrete examination of the facts in this case, is an appropriate one for examination by a public inquiry.  In short, we say this is, effectively, either dereliction of duty or misconduct in public office.  The evidence must be heard in public and the family must have an opportunity to direct questions to the principal actors.  The public must hear that evidence.

We accept that the committee is constrained in its proceedings and that it cannot go as far as it or the family would like it to go. Therefore, it is a dual process and we are here to deal with the public policy issues.  The family has tried to structure the submissions and contributions in a way that fits in with the modules proposed by the committee.  However, there will be some duplication, although we will try to avoid it.  The family is conscious of its position in terms of not having legal privilege and not, therefore, being fully in a position to express themselves.  We are talking about 30 years of deception and upset for the family so some family members might find it difficult to express themselves.  While they will do their best the committee must accept that this has been an appalling experience for them over three decades.  However, we will try to give the committee a flavour of how an ordinary, law abiding family found themselves with a life changing set of circumstances and were abandoned, and their hurt compounded, by the conduct of the State authorities with which they had to deal.

That is our introduction.  The family has given the committee a running order which they believe will be helpful to the committee's work.  Obviously, however, the committee members will direct their own questions.


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


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Revised: February 07, 2006