Irish Republican News · September 16, 2010
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
No surprises in Wright collusion inquiry

Incompetence by prison warders and not state collusion created conditions which led to the killing of Billy Wright, the inquiry into his murder has found.

Te leader of the LVF murder gangs who was personally linked to 20 murders of Catholics, mostly shot at random. On December 27, 1997, The small republican INLA shot him dead at point blank range inside Long Kesh prison.

After five years, 530 million and a report running to almost 700 pages, the findings of the team examining the shooting were released this week.

Ranald MacLean, the inquiry chairman, said it should now put to bed speculation regarding British state involvement in the carefully planned attack.

Speaking in the House of Commons in London, British Direct Ruler Owen Paterson apologised for the shortcomings which led to the LVF leader’s death in the high-security jail.

“His murder should never have happened. But any allegations that the state colluded in this violent killing have now been examined and rejected,” he said.

However, Billy Wright’s father, while thanking the inquiry team, was scathing in his criticism of both the prison service and RUC Special Branch. Amid tight security at the report’s launch in the Stormont Hotel in east Belfast, David Wright said the failure to use the word “collusion” amounted to a whitewash.

For 13 years I have sought the truth,” said Mr Wright. “Having considered the factual findings, it looks like collusion, it sounds like collusion and in my mind amounts to firm and final proof of collusion by state agencies in acts and omissions culminating in Billy Wright’s death.”

It was at the door of the Prison Service where the vast majority of the blame was laid.

Paramilitary prisoners had their own appointed leader ship and dictated the pace of their own regime.

The prison was being run more like a youth hostel. Loyalist wings were awash with drugs and other illegal contraband. Those loyalists loyal to bible-bashing LVF leader Billy Wright shared one halt of H Block 6. On the opposite side were the renegade republican gunmen of the INLA.

The two rival factions co-existed with just a wire fence dividing them. This was despite intelligence that stated the INLA opposed Wright being moved to a block where its prisoners were housed and intended to kill him at the first opportunity. However, this information was found by the inquiry team to only to have been shared with the RUC police.

In the end the three INLA men convicted of the December 1997 murder, Christopher McWilliams, John Kennaway and John Glennon, were able to simply cut a hole in the dividing fence.

After scaling a small flat roofed building they gained access to the yard where Wright was being loaded into a prison van. They entered the van and shot him dead.

Willie Gallagher of the INLA-linked Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) said the findings verified its original account of the shooting.

The INLA always denied that it was assisted by the state in the attack. However, Mr Gallagher did admit that one of the IRSP’s former members had been working as an informant at the time of the 1997 Wright murder.

“It was down to the INLA taking advantage of a lapse in security measures,” he said of the killing.

“If you ask anyone who was in the blocks [Maze) at that time they will tell you the same. You could have basically got away with anything in Long Kesh at that time.

“The prisoners could have put a brass band down the wing if they wanted to - the system was a joke.

“At one point the loyalist prisoners claim to have had a puppy running about the place, that says it all really.”

He said there had obviously been a lot of planning by the INLA, both inside and outside the jail.

“The IRSP are unconcerned by the report’s findings,” he said.

“Speculation that there was collusion involved was really only a way for the prison service to cover up its own failings.

“We had expected several of our members to be called to give evidence to the inquiry and while we would not have taken part voluntarily, if we had been summonsed we would have gone along. As it was we never were.

“We believed this omission was in order to cover up for an agent who was working for British intelligence in 1997.”

We have a favour to ask

We want to keep our publication as available as we can, so we need to ask for your help. Irish Republican News takes time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe it makes a difference. If everyone who reads our website helps fund it, our future would be much more secure.

For as little as £1, you can support Irish Republican News – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

© 2010 Irish Republican News