A public inquiry into the murder of unionist paramilitary leader ‘King Rat’ gets underway in Belfast today.
Billy Wright was the leader of the Loyalist Volunteer Force which was responsible for scores of sectarian assassinations, mainly in mid-Ulster, and other violence and criminality.
He was shot dead by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in Long Kesh prison, where he was a prisoner, on December 27th, 1997.
INLA prisoners were convicted of the killing, but there were allegations, voiced principally by Wright’s father, that prison officers colluded in his killing.
The Billy Wright inquiry will be chaired by Scottish Law Lord Ranald MacLean. He will be supported by Andrew Coyle, director of the International Centre for Prisons Studies in London, and retired English clergyman John Oliver.
Last night, the Wright family reportedly raised concerns that the government would attempt to change the terms of reference of the inquiry into the LVF leader’s murder at the 11th hour to allow the government to decide on evidence to be heard by the inquiry.
Similar secrecy orders have derailed a controversial inquiry into the most controversial murder of the conflict, that of Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane.
“We have been reliably informed that the government will try to take control of the inquiry when it opens,” the Wright family source said.
“If that happens it will have serious repercussions for the independence of the inquiry and we would have to consider withdrawing from it.
“The government are trying to move the goal posts at the last minute because they are concerned what might be made public about who colluded with the INLA to have Billy murdered.”
Meanwhile, it is understood that Wright’s father David has been blocked from obtaining the minutes of a meeting between former prime minister John Major and senior loyalists in 1996.