Gardaí may have covered-up the murder of a Dundalk forestry worker 30 years ago because of his killers’ links with British military intelligence, an Oireachtas committee heard today.
Seamus Ludlow, 47, was shot dead by gunmen while returning home from a pub in Dundalk on May 2 1976.
The former Sunday Tribune journalist Ed Moloney said questions had to be asked about why gardaí wrongly told the Ludlow family that he had been shot by the IRA for being an informer.
He said it had been obvious from the start that Ludlow, an innocent man, bore none of the hallmarks of someone who was killed for being an informer.
His body was not bound and gagged, he had not been interrogated for days beforehand and the IRA did not publicly name him as an informer, as was its general practice at the time.
“Gardaí smeared the Ludlow family in a shameful and disgustingly callous fashion,” said Mr Moloney.
Mr Moloney said there might have been collusion between the Gardaí and British military intelligence to cover up the murder but said only a public inquiry could establish the truth.
But he said the Garda allegation that Mr Ludlow was an IRA informer had caused divisions in the Ludlow family which lasted for two decades, as they rowed over the cause of his death, and prevented them from mounting a cohesive campaign for the truth.
Mr Moloney, who covered the North for the Sunday Tribune from 1978 until 2002, flew from his home in New York to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Justice.
He raised a series of questions about links between the Gardaí and British military intelligence at the time of Mr Ludlow’s death.
“There is no doubt the British have over the years attempted to place agents in the Gardaí,” he said.
“There’s a lot of smoke and I don’t know whether there’s a fire, but there’s certainly smoke.”
In a wide-ranging presentation, he was warned several times by the committee chairman Fianna Fáil TD Sean Ardagh not to use the names of people implicated in murders and spying.
Mr Moloney said one of the four loyalists implicated in the killing of Seamus Ludlow, who he referred as number three, was a member of the Red Hand Commando and had been described as a psychopath with a fearsome and bloody reputation.
“Number three is living in England since the 1980s. I was told by UVF sources that he had departed under a cloud and when I asked if he was an informer, I was told it was reasonable to assume that he was.”
Mr Moloney said there were other cases where British intelligence had allowed an innocent person to be killed despite being warned by their informers. He referred to the killing of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989 and the shooting of Francisco Notarantonio in 1987.
He described how a member of the Ludlow family living in South Armagh had been arrested in the wake of the murder and questioned about the progress of the Garda investigation.
“Why were the British army so interested in the Ludlow family case that they dispatched soldiers and helicopters? My allegation is that the British army wanted to know if one of their agents was in trouble.”
He said that a full public inquiry into the murder of Seamus Ludlow would deal with the great unanswered question: was one of the killers a British informer and what did the gardaí and the State know about it?
“There is an elephant in the room and everyone is pretending it is not there.”