Séamus Ludlow’s family to appeal for new investigations

Forestry worker’s relatives want inquiries into State’s handling of his murder in 1976

 Séamus Ludlow’s brother Kevin Ludlow (l), with his nephew Jimmy Sharkey. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Séamus Ludlow’s brother Kevin Ludlow (l), with his nephew Jimmy Sharkey. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

An appeal for the Government to establish two committees of inquiry into the murder of a forestry worker thought to have been carried out by loyalists will be heard in the High Court on Tuesday.

The family of Séamus Ludlow (47), whose body was found in a ditch with bullet wounds near his home on the Cooley peninsula, Co Louth, on May 1st, 1976, wants the court to direct the Minister for Justice to open inquiries into the State’s handling of investigations.

His family have long maintained Mr Ludlow was an innocent victim of a loyalist death squad comprising a Red Hand Commando and two members of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR).

The case was never definitively solved and no arrests were made in the Republic.

Mr Ludlow’s nephew Jimmy Sharkey believes gardaí were complicit in spreading false rumours that his uncle was killed for being an IRA informant.

Speaking to The Irish Times before the judicial review, he claims that three of the four people allegedly involved in his uncle’s death are still alive.

“The reason why the gardaí went along with this train of thought – that it was the IRA – I can only suspect, was to tarnish his name and put the family off the tracks of checking anything out about the case.

“I think once gardaí found out that it was people from the North of Ireland and members of the UDR in the car that night . . . they decided to close the case down,” he said.

Known to security forces

Mr Sharkey said the man who pulled the trigger, a prominent loyalist paramilitary at the time, known to security forces on both sides of the Border, lives in England and can be found on social media.

The family’s Belfast-based solicitor KRW Law will argue that the State should implement the recommendations of a joint Oireachtas committee report by Mr Justice Henry Barron in 2006.

Drawing on the Barron findings, a sub-committee advised that the State establish committees of inquiry to examine whether gardaí followed up on credible leads given to them by the RUC on suspects in the Ludlow case, why the named suspects were never interviewed and what happened to official Garda documents from the time.

Mr Sharkey said gardaí re-examined the case in 1996 after he produced the name of a person believed to be complicit in the crime, but no charges were brought.

He believes his uncle was picked up, while hitching a lift home from Dundalk, by loyalists who had been on a failed mission to locate and murder a prominent south Down IRA figure.

“They were down here to kill a leading republican from the south Down area and they couldn’t come across him.

“So on the way back home they satisfied their lust for killing. It could have been any poor, unfortunate person that night,” he said.

‘No paramilitary links’

“Séamus had absolutely no links to any paramilitary organisation. He was a low-key member of the Fine Gael party.

“He never spoke about politics and I know, when a number of atrocities happened around the Border area at the time, Séamus would have been very shocked by that.”

Mr Sharkey acknowledges that any effort to secure convictions against the men he believes killed his uncle would be “futile” due to a lack of existing forensic evidence and protection provided under the Belfast Agreement.

But he feels the inquiries could give the family, including Mr Ludlow’s siblings Kevin Ludlow, Eileen Fox and Nan Sharkey (mother of Jimmy, a sense of closure.

He said some Garda detectives who investigated the case are still alive and may have valuable information.

“If there was a commission of inquiry that had proper teeth, they may come forward and want to talk about it.

“We never really got a chance to question these people in a court of law in detail, so we may get that chance,” he said.

“It’s in the memory of him that we’re keeping this going. All we want is the truth.

“We don’t want anyone to be hung out to dry or anything like that. All we want is the truth.”