01 February 2006

Hearings on Ludlow murder told of border fear

BreakingNews.ie

31/01/2006 - 17:25:56

Fear stalked the Border area and bodies were regularly dumped along roadsides in the mid 1970s, an Oireachtas all-party body heard today.

The Justice Sub-Committee is into its second week of hearings on the Barron Report into the 1976 murder of Dundalk forestry worker Seamus Ludlow.

Mr Ludlow, 47, who had no links to paramilitary groups, was shot dead as he returned home from a night out.

The Barron report said the RUC told gardai in 1979 that it believed four named loyalists were involved in his killing, but this information was not pursued by the Garda at the time.

Former Co Louth TD Brendan McGahon today admitted that he was wrong to blame the IRA for the murder during a radio interview with RTÉ's Pat Kenny in 1993.

“I was wrong but only hindsight has proven me wrong,” he told Sub-Committee members.

The ex-Fine Gael TD said he was given the information at the time by a garda, but he couldn’t remember his name today.

Mr McGahon also said he knew the Ludlow family well and Seamus had carried out gardening work for him at his house.

He recalled that the time of the murder was a dreadful period in the Border area.

“There was fear all around, on both sides of the Border,” he said.

“There was economic depression in Dundalk because of the level of crime in the 1970s.

“There were many instances of bodies found lying at the roadsides. So that when Seamus was killed and his body found lying on the roadside a couple of hundred yards from his home, it was in my opinion, reasonable to assume that the IRA had done it because the IRA was the only firm operating in that business of slaughter, murder in the Border area at that time.

“There was no other rational view.”

Mr McGahon added: “At that time, there was no evidence at all of any forays across the Border by UVF personnel. At that time they were not suspected of taking the life of any south of Ireland citizen.”

Earlier, former Detective Superintendent John Courtney said he was disappointed that four loyalists identified by the RUC to gardaí weren’t questioned by detectives in the Republic.

He repeated his claims in the Barron report, that Detective Sergeant Dan Boyle told him in 1979 that former Garda Commissioner Larry Wren had advised senior officers that no further action should be taken in the case.

“I was really interested to have those suspects followed up,” Det Supt Courtney said.

“It was part of my job at the time to have them interviewed because I was satisfied they were good suspects for the murder. I was satisfied about that.”

Mr Wren later told the Sub-Committee that he did not accept the conclusion in the report that it was ’most probable’ that the decision not to interview the four loyalists was made by him.

After questioning by Labour Party TD Joe Costello, Mr Wren replied: “How this conclusion can be reached … beggars comprehension, and when Det Supt Courtney’s direct superiors don’t appear to have any knowledge of his efforts in this regard.

“If those four suspects were extradited, the RUC would be looking for four IRA suspects to be extradited back up to Belfast.”

The Sub-Committee, which heard calls for an independent statutory inquiry from Ludlow family members last week, is expected to report to the Government before the end of March.

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