01 April 2006

Fresh Garda probe into Ludlow murder slammed

Belfast Telegraph

Move 'stalling exercise to avoid public inquiry'

By Michael McHugh
01 April 2006

The decision to reopen Garda files into the Troubles murder of Seamus Ludlow is a "stalling exercise" to delay a public inquiry, relatives of the victim said last night.

Jimmy Sharkey, a nephew of the Co Louth loyalist murder victim, has downplayed the chances of securing convictions after police chiefs announced a fresh investigation on Thursday.

The move follows recommendations made in a report by the Irish Parliament's Justice Committee, which was highly critical of the way police handled the original probe.

Elected representatives found the family was treated in an "unsatisfactory manner" by police and forensic material collected at the scene had been lost.

Mr Ludlow was shot dead in May 1976 near his Dundalk home, allegedly by north Down loyalists who were interviewed by the PSNI but never faced questioning by gardai.

Mr Sharkey said: "This is a stalling exercise and I would say that they have not got a chance of securing convictions.

"In 1998, when the suspects were arrested by the RUC, senior detectives told me that there was little chance of prosecutions unless new evidence came to the fore.

"I believe that this will just hold up things and we won't be able to have a public inquiry for a number of years."

This week's sub-committee report to the Justice Department, ordered after an earlier probe by retired Supreme Court Justice Henry Barron, recommended a Commission of Inquiry be set up to look at issues including collusion between loyalists and the Northern Ireland authorities, as well as the police investigation.

Family members reacted with anger to the development and continue to campaign for a full public inquiry.

In inviting Garda detectives to re-examine the case, the committee report stated: "The sub-committee notes that developments in statutory mutual assistance have occurred with significant legislative changes.

"It is also noted that there are now formal structures in place to ensure the speedy and secure communication of sensitive intelligence and that dedicated liaison officers have been appointed between An Garda Siochana and the PSNI.

"It should be possible for the Garda to receive assistance from the PSNI."

A Garda spokesman declined to comment. The senior officer appointed to head the review will look at investigation files and work closely with the PSNI.

Calls have come for a team like the PSNI's Historic Enquiries Team to be set up in the Republic to probe Troubles murders.

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