' I was sacked' says Wright tribunal lawyer

A senior lawyer who unexpectedly left the public inquiry into the murder of a loyalist paramilitary leader claimed today he was sacked and did not resign.

Derek Batchelor QC, the former lead counsel in the £21m (€26.5m) Billy Wright Inquiry, issued a statement contradicting initial claims that he stood down of his own accord.

The Scottish barrister had been tasked with questioning key witnesses in the inquiry into the murder of the Loyalist Volunteer Force leader inside the Maze prison in the North in 1997.

Last week the Inquiry team issued a statement saying that Mr Batchelor had resigned his post with immediate effect.

The announcment came in the middle of a witness testimony at Banbridge courthouse.

The lawyer has now broken his silence on his departure by claiming he was sacked and is now seeking legal action over the circumstances of his dismissal.

“Last Tuesday afternoon, I was called to a meeting and was advised by the (tribunal) panel that complaints had been made over my handling of some staff members,” he said.

“There was no doubt in my mind on leaving this meeting that I had been dismissed from the inquiry.

“Contrary to subsequent reports, I have not resigned and I had no intention of leaving my post as the inquiry reaches critical stages.”

Mr Batchelor said he has since offered to return to the inquiry but nothing has come of it.

He said he did not wish to disrupt the work of the inquiry but felt obliged to seek legal action to ensure the exact circumstances of his departure were known.

A spokesman for the Inquiry team said it would not be adding to its original statement of last week.


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