Irish Republican News · September 14, 2010
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Billy Wright Inquiry finds no collusion

The Billy Wright Inquiry has found there was no collusion by the British state in the murder by the republican INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) of the unionist paramilitary leader in Long Kesh 13 years ago.

The five-year inquiry however delivered strong criticisms of the North’s Prison Service, the PSNI/RUC police and the intelligence services. It outlined a number of failures which allowed the INLA to shoot dead the leader of the LVF (Loyalist VOlunteer Force) in the prison on December 27th 1997. But it added that these failures, described variously as “wrongful omissions” or “wrongful acts” were simply the result of negligence.

Canadian judge Peter Cory, who was appointed by the British government in 2002 to investigate allegations of collusion, called for inquiries into the death of the LVF leader as well as the more controversial killings of Portadown Catholic Robert Hamill, Lurgan human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson and Belfast defence lawyer Pat Finucane.

The resulting inquiry, chaired by Lord MacLean, today found that INLA prisoners and LVF members should not have been housed in the same H Block at the Maze prison. This decision to locate rival paramilitary prisoners in the same building was compounded by failures to carry out proper risk assessments.

In particular the inquiry criticises the classification of the INLA Volunteers who killed Wright, while serious management problems at the prison were not properly addressed.

The 700-page report also cites a series of intelligence failures relating to both the sharing of information and its analysis.

It also cites the destruction of documents by state officials, detailing how this had hampered the inquiry’s deliberations.

The report concludes that while there was no collusion, it regrets that “no explanation emerged in the evidence as to how the two firearms were introduced in to the prison and put into the hands” of the INLA unit.

The inquiry chairman also made three key recommendations regarding the handling of documents and the management of prisons in the North. It also calls for an overhaul of the North’s prison system and citing as an example of what is needed the Patten Commission’s review of the former RUC which led to the establishment of the PSNI.

Billy Wright’s father rejected the report and insisted today there was “firm and final” proof of state collusion in his son’s killing.

Sinn Fein Assembly member John O’Dowd said it had to be remembered that the Billy Wright Inquiry came about through lobbying by unionists seeking to balance calls for inquiries into the murders of nationalists.

He said it would come as no surprise that the report places much of the blame at the feet of the prison administration.

“It is our firm view that Wright and the Mid-Ulster UVF, like their colleagues in Mount Vernon were controlled, directed and manipulated by the British State. This report does not examine this aspect of Wright’s life.

“We would strongly support the recommendation contained in the report for a complete overhaul of the administration of the prison system in the north. The negative grip of the POA [Prison Officers Association] over prison policy here needs to be tackled in the time ahead.”

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