Officials to receive report into death of leading loyalist Wright

The report into the murder of leading loyalist Billy Wright in jail will be handed over to a team of British government officials today.

They will check that the investigation into alleged security lapses will not put the lives of individuals at risk when it is published.

Lord Ranald MacLean probed the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) leader’s murder by republicans in the high-security Maze prison near Belfast in 1997. Five witnesses at the inquiry won a legal battle for anonymity.

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson said today: “I need to take steps to satisfy myself that the publication of the report will not breach Article 2 of the Convention (of Human Rights) by putting the lives or safety of individuals at risk.”

He added: “I also have a duty to satisfy myself that publication will not put national security at risk, for example by disclosing details of sources of confidential information.”

Wright, 37, was gunned down by INLA inmates as he sat in a prison van in December 1997 before a visit.

The inquiry was one of three established to probe whether security force collusion surrounded controversial deaths. The others included murdered Catholic solicitor Rosemary Nelson and Robert Hamill who was kicked to death in Portadown, Co Armagh, while police were nearby.

Last month Lord Mark Saville’s Bloody Sunday report into the death of 14 civil rights protesters shot dead by soldiers was also published after the British government took time to consider similar security implications.

Questions considered by the Wright panel included:

- The decision to house Wright and other LVF members in the same H Block as the INLA.

- The security lapses which allowed the INLA to smuggle in two guns;

- The standing down of a prison officer from the watchtower overlooking H Block 6 on the morning of the killing;

- The fact that a vital CCTV camera was not working;

- The lapses which allowed a wire fence to be cut by the INLA men.

Lord MacLean has agreed that officials can carry out the checks on the Inquiry’s premises while the report remains in his custody before it is formally submitted to the Northern Ireland Secretary.

Representatives of the families may enjoy advance sight before the report is published to parliament, Mr Paterson said. He added that he wanted to publish the report in its entirety.

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