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8 September 2005 Edition

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Full public inquiry needed to uncover Ludlow truth

Speaking at the conclusion of the inquest into the death of Séamus Ludlow in Dundalk on Tuesday evening, Louth Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan echoed the demand of the Ludlow family for a public inquiry following the fresh inquest jury's verdict of unlawful killing.

In May 1976, Séamus Ludlow, a quiet inoffensive bachelor, was gunned down while he walked home from a pub in Mountpleasant, County Louth, close to the border. For a very long time his murder was attributed to republicans by the mainstream media regardless of the fact that there was not a shred of evidence to back this up. Eighteen months after the murder, the Gardaí were notified by the RUC that the murder was in actual fact carried out by unionist paramilitaries. However, the Gardaí took no action in re-opening the case or in setting the record straight to the wider public.

Names and addresses

It only emerged into the public domain in the mid-'90s that an RUC contact gave the Gardaí the names and addresses of the perpetrators of the murder a year and a half after the event, but during that whole time the family and the public were kept in the dark.

A retired Garda, Detective Inspector John Courtney, who was part of the original investigating team, was specifically ordered not to proceed with the re-opening of the case following the new information. He said: "I was anxious to interview these people as they were strong suspects but I couldn't do it as I didn't get the authority to do it." During the original investigation, Gardaí had interviewed 2,000 people, searched 2,000 houses (mostly republicans) and 1,000 cars, but four weeks later the investigation came to an abrupt halt. It later emerged that this was done because the British security services wanted to protect an informer.

"The most revealing evidence presented to this inquest came from former chief superintendent Courtney, who admitted that he had sent a report to Garda headquarters outlining many of the discrepancies in the investigation," said Arthur Morgan.

"It took 29 years to even get to this inquest. And, even at that, Gardaí have not visited the family of Séamus Ludlow to apologise for or withdraw the misinformation and accusations they gave to the family that the IRA was involved in the death of this innocent man. This in itself has caused great hurt, mistrust and division in the family through all these years.

"An inquest, while late coming but welcome, could never answer the many questions around why the Gardaí acted as they did; who authorised their many lies and deceit; why did the cover up continue for so long and why did the Gardaí not re-visit the family to share with them the information in their possession from shortly after the death of Séamus as to who killed him. The only possible way of uncovering all the information involved is to have an immediate full public sworn inquiry."

Currently, a private inquiry conducted by Justice Henry Barron is taking place into the murder of Séamus Ludlow. A report of this inquiry is due to be published shortly.

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