Wright inquiry: No state collusion

by Peter Wozniak

The UK government did not collude in the murder of the notorious loyalist paramilitary Billy Wright in prison, the inquiry into his death has found.

The Billy Wright inquiry, which has taken five years to complete at a cost of £30 million, found that although Northern Ireland authorities were guilty of negligence which allowed Mr Wright’s murder in 1997, there was no evidence of any official sanctioning of the killing.

Owen Paterson, Northern Ireland minister said in a statement to parliament: “The decision to allocate Billy Wright and the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) faction to H Block 6 in April 1997 alongside the INLA [republican] prisoners was a wrongful act that directly facilitated his murder… I am sincerely sorry that failings in the system facilitated his murder.”

In particular, the accusation that MI5 information of a threat on the paramilitary was deliberately ignored was dismissed.

The NI prisons service and police force came under criticism for negligence in placing loyalist and republican dissidents in the same cell blocks, lax prison procedures that allowed the murder to take place and withholding information pertinent to the inquiry.

The report concluded: “The inquiry was also hampered as it became clear at an early stage that certain documents held by both the NIPS and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) had been destroyed.”

Mr Wright was killed by Republican paramilitaries on the grounds of Maze prison in 1997.

His family questioned whether the state had any hand in his death, which occurred when INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) members cut through a fence and shot Mr Wright on his way to the visiting area of the prison.

Mr Paterson called the report “clear and unequivocal” in its findings.

The paramilitary was a member of the loyalist group the LVF and was implicated of being involved in up to 20 killings among the Catholic community of Northern Ireland.