The family of a murdered Dundalk forestry worker have given up hope of his killers ever being brought to justice, it emerged today.
Seamus Ludlow, 47, was abducted by loyalist paramilitaries in Co Louth and shot dead on May 2, 1976, but gardaí never interviewed the suspects identified by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) 18 months later.
The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice heard that the family now accepted that a loyalist gang had carried the random sectarian murder but would never be held responsible.
“We reluctantly must accept that the prospects of even bringing a prosecution, let alone a successful one, are extremely remote,” said barrister Eamon Coffey.
The four suspects named in Judge Henry Barron’s report into the killing were arrested in the North in 1998, but the DPP there decided not to prosecute them because of insufficient evidence.
But Mr Coffey said the family wanted a full public inquiry to discover why the gardaí had never been given permission to travel across the border to interview the suspects.
“Otherwise the Ludlow family and the wider public are left with the grounds of believing that this state was an accessory after the fact in the murder of Seamus Ludlow and being complicit in his murder,” he said.
The Justice committee, which was holding the final of its seven hearings into Judge Henry Barron’s report on the murder, must consider whether to recommend a full public inquiry in its report next month.
Mr Coffey said the Ludlow family had been steadfast in their pursuit of the truth for 30 years, which has seen them endure two inquests into their brother’s death, two Garda internal investigation and Judge Barron’s report.
He said they were entitled to consistency from the Irish Government, which supported campaigns for public inquiries into Bloody Sunday and the killing of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.
The family want a speedy public inquiry to answer four key questions.
:: Was the initial Garda investigation in 1976 adequate?
:: Why was the information from the RUC on the four suspects not followed up?
:: Why was evidence at the scene not preserved?
:: Was the decision taken not to pursue the murder of Seamus Ludlow and if so, who took it?
In his report, Judge Barron said it was most probable the decision not to carry out the interviews with the Northern Ireland-based suspects was made by former Garda Commissioner Laurence Wren, then head of the Garda C3 security section.
The family are opposed to a Commission of Inquiry on the grounds that it would carry out its investigation in private, would not make a determination of facts and would not allow them to cross-examine witnesses.
“The family have a right to cross-examine those who consistently misled them to the identity of the killers and in fact branded Seamus Ludlow an (IRA) informer,” said their senior counsel Deirdre Murphy.