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Department of Justices resists Ludlow inquiry

(by Ed Moloney, Sunday Tribune, Feb. 21, 1999)

The Department of Justice is believed to be leading official resistance to calls for an independent public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the killing of Dundalk, Co Louth man Seamus Ludlow who was shot dead near his home in May, 1976, according to informed sources.

A campaign by his family has brought to the surface allegations of a cover-up involving both the British and Irish security authorities lasting more than two decades.

Last week the human rights groups British Irish Rights Watch boosted the campaign with the publication in Dublin of a report into the killing backing the family's demands for a public inquiry. The BIRW report listed 14 questions for the British and Irish authorities to answer, ten of which deal with the way the Gardai and other authorities in the Republic handled the case.

The family of Seamus Ludlow also held a press conference in Dublin last Thursday, supported by five Border TD's, at which they repeated suspicions that the cover-up may have been motivated by the need to protect an agent, possibly the man who fired the gun used to kill Seamus Ludlow. A copy of the BIRW report was given to the Taoiseach's office. The press conference was not reported by the mainstream Dublin print media.

A public meeting in Dundalk Town Hall held later attracted a crowd of several hundred and was attended by representatives of the all major local political parties, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin. A petition supporting the call for an inquiry was also gathered. Members of the Garda Special Branch in Dundalk were outside the hall, apparently monitoring those turning up to the meeting.

A key allegation which is rapidly becoming a central feature of the campaign revolves around the possibility that the authorities may have been protecting an agent amongst the killers of Seamus Ludlow. He was shot dead not long after he hitched a lift from Dundalk to his home late on a Saturday night.

Family spokesman, Jimmy Sharkey, a nephew of the dead man, said last week: "We are asking what was the reason for the cover-up. I think it is that one of the four people in the car that night was an agent or informer for British Military Intelligence, the RUC Special Branch or even Garda Special Branch. Everything points to the trigger man and if that is true it means he was allowed to continue on with his murderous activities."

The family's demand for a public inquiry puts the coalition government in a difficult position. If the Dublin authorities reject the demand it may weaken their ability to take a morally vigorous line with the British government over exclusively Northern security scandals such as the Bloody Sunday inquiry and the Pat Finucane killing both of which could have implications for the peace process.

If on the other hand an inquiry is allowed there is no knowing what other security scandals may emerge especially since the relevant events cover a period in the mid-1970's when allegations of intelligence dirty tricks on both sides of the Border abounded.

The evidence suggesting that the Seamus Ludlow case was the subject of a cover-up is however beginning to accumulate and despite establishment media indifference it may become difficult to ignore: