Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Ludlow family High Court ruling welcomed

Relatives of a Dundalk man who was shot dead on the way home from a pub in May 1976 have won High Court permission to challenge a decision not to prosecute British soldiers and loyalist paramilitaries identified as suspects in the killing. 

It is believed the murder of 47 year old forestry worker, Seamus Ludlow was carried out by loyalists who crossed the border to carry out the attack.  No one has ever been charged in connection with his death.  Mr Ludlow’s family claim he was an innocent victim of a loyalist death squad made up of Red Hand Commando and UDR members who were targeting a senior IRA man, in a case of mistaken identity.

In 1998, the RUC arrested and questioned four named suspects, two of whom allegedly confessed to their involvement in the murder along with the others.

According to the Ludlow family, despite the RUC recommending the men’s prosecution, a decision was taken in 1999 not to bring charges.  

Mr Ludlow’s nephew, Thomas Fox, brought the family’s fight against the alleged cover-up to the High Court, seeking a judicial review of the Director of Public Prosecutions decision not to prosecute. 

Ronan Lavery, QC for Mr Fox, said the murder “must rank among the most shameful episodes in the (Irish) state”.  He claimed Mr Fox’s human rights have been breached, with alleged further unlawfulness surrounding failures to give sufficient reasons to carry out a review. 

Mr Lavery told the court a smear campaign was carried out by gardai against Mr Ludlow’s family, claiming he was killed by the Provisional IRA for being an informer and that some family members had prior knowledge of the murder- sparking a decades long rift among relatives.

The court also heard claims that the RUC told the Gardai in 1979 that it believed four named loyalists were involved in Mr Ludlow’s killing but the Garda did not pursue the information at the time because it could lead to requests for the extradition of IRA suspects in return.

“What we seem to have here is an implied or express agreement, it’s almost collusion between the two states to keep this matter covered up,” said Mr Lavery.

Mr Lavery argued that “basic fairness” should mean the family be given reasons for the decision reached by prosecution chiefs 20 years later. 

“Two people admit to being in a car which goes across the border to murder somebody, the two of them draw maps of the scene where it took place and nobody is prosecuted,” he added.

It also emerged during last week’s hearing that the prosecution file has gone missing in the intervening years.

Lord Justice Treacy granted leave to seek a judicial review, ruling that an arguable case was established on all grounds of challenge.

The judge also called for “a good explanation” on what has happened to the missing file by the time the full hearing is convened later this year. 

Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy, who attended court to support the family, said the High Court ruling was a “welcome step in the fight for truth and justice.”

“The Ludlow family have been campaigning for over 40 years for truth about Seamus’ murder in 1976 by Loyalist paramilitaries, some believed to be serving members of the UDR,” said the Newry and Armagh MLA.

“This decision will allow the family to move forward in their fight for truth and justice through the courts. 

Mr Murphy also demanded the Irish government to end the delay in implementing the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice which concluded in 2006 that Commissions of Investigation were needed into important aspects of the Ludlow case – one to examine the Garda investigation and cooperation with the RUC, the other to examine missing case files.  To date, neither body has been set up.

“Sinn Féin will continue to support the Ludlow family in their quest for truth and justice,” he added.