Ed Moloney, Sunday Tribune | 30 August 1998
More evidence is emerging to indicate that senior Garda authorities may have helped to cover-up the mysterious murder of Co. Louth man, Seamus Ludlow who was shot dead by Loyalist paramilitaries on the outskirts of Dundalk more than 20 years ago. No-one has ever been charged with his murder but earlier this year allegations surfaced suggesting that the authorities knew shortly after the killing who the culprits were but never moved against them because they may have been trying to protect an informer amongst the Loyalists involved in the May 1976 killing. According to the Ludlow family the Gardai have now told them that the then Murder Squad knew the identities of the killers and compiled files on them nearly twenty years ago but never took any action against them.
"We have been told by the Gardai who are investigating the murder at the moment that all of this information, the names (of the killers), the photographs everything about the case was known to the Gardai in 1979", a spokesperson for the Ludlow family told the Sunday Tribune. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
"We have also been told that at that time the Gardai came North to seek the information from the RUC. The RUC have told us that they didn't act on the information because the Gardai didn't request them to do so. This information, we have been told, was put in the file and the file was classified. It was known at the highest levels in the Gardai Murder Squad."
Allegations of a cover-up of the Ludlow murder followed the arrest in Belfast last February of four men, three of them ex-members of the small Loyalist paramilitary group the Red Hand Commandos on suspicion of involvement in the killing. The Red Hand Commandos, founded by the late former Ian Paisley confidante and paedophile John McKeague, are linked to the much larger Ulster Volunteer Force.
The fourth man, Paul Hosking from Newtownards subsequently claimed in an interview with the Sunday Tribune that the RUC Special Branch had interviewed him about the murder in 1987 and appeared to know all about the circumstances of the murder including the identities of the culprits. He also claims that at the end of the interview the Special Branch officer told him to forget about the case as it was "political".
Following this the Sunday Tribune established that in the wake of Seamus Ludlow's murder Garda Special Branch and CID officers in the Dundalk area had mounted a smear campaign against the Ludlow family, claiming that the IRA had been responsible for the murder and that an unnamed member of the family had set up Seamus Ludlow for allegedly informing. The effect of this campaign was to sow suspicion and division within the family thereby weakening their efforts to establish the truth about Seamus Ludlow's death.
The Ludlow family is now angry that this smear campaign continued even though it now seems the Gardai knew a long time ago that the truth was that Seamus Ludlow was the apparently random victim of Loyalists.
"The family had been told (by the Gardai) down through all the years that they had no new information on it and they were assuming that it was the IRA who had been responsible. That's what we were told for twenty years", the family spokesperson said. "What we feel so hurt about is that these boys should have been in jail all this time and would probably only be getting out now. To think that Seamus Ludlow was just an ordinary man and who were the authorities protecting? We have no doubt they were protecting someone. We have been told by a Garda source that there is no doubt about it, this is not an ordinary case."
The Ludlow's are now pressing for a full public investigation into the circumstances surrounding Seamus Ludlow's death. "The family will have to take guidance on this but we want an independent, public inquiry. Tribunals of inquiry have taken place in the South over the last few years at the drop of a hat. We think that this is something that if the peace process means anything at all must be opened up completely and the truth told."
According to Paul Hosking, who protests his innocence of the killing, the Seamus Ludlow murder was a haphazard, random affair which followed a day of drunken bravado. He says he met up with the killers, two of them then soldiers in the Ulster Defence Regiment and the third a notorious Red Hand Commando gunman from Bangor, Co. Down early on the morning of May 6th, 1976.
They set off on a drinking spree and ended up in the Dundalk area that evening, after one of the UDR men suggested they try to locate IRA roadblocks which were then in the news. On the way back North, he says, they picked up Seamus Ludlow who was thumbing a lift home after a night's drinking in a Dundalk pub. The Red Hand Commando gunman shot him dead when Hosking asked the driver to stop so he could go to the toilet. He then claims that the gunman threatened to kill him if he ever told the authorities what had happened.