Paisley Jnr to appeal court decision

Leading Democratic Unionist Ian Paisley Jnr said today that he is to appeal over a High Court decision ordering him to reveal a source which gave him evidence on the murder of a high-profile loyalist paramilitary.

The North Antrim MLA was last week told he must provide the name to a public inquiry probing the death of Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) leader Billy Wright, who was shot dead in 1997 by republicans in the top security Maze prison.

The inquiry team had gone to Belfast High Court demanding he reveal the identity of the officer who told him prison authorities ordered the destruction of files after the killing.

Failure to comply with last Friday’s court ruling could see Mr Paisley going to jail.

Today the son of the North's former First Minister and DUP leader Rev Ian Paisley said he had decided to challenge the order.

“This is an issue of such importance I believe it is worth fighting for,” he said.

“It’s not just about politicians’ right to protect their sources but also about people’s rights, who need to know that when they bring forward information to public representatives their confidentiality will be protected.”

The former junior minister in the Stormont executive said he expected his case to be heard within three months.

Last week, Mr Justice John Gillen said he was satisfied that the inquiry had provided a clear and compelling case and ordered Mr Paisley to provide the information to the inquiry within 17 days.

The assembly member had said he was told of a policy within the prison service to destroy files ahead of the introduction of data protection legislation.

It was claimed thousands of documents were destroyed after Wright was shot dead by prisoners from the republican Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) who climbed across a jail wing to attack him with guns smuggled into the prison.

The public inquiry was subsequently launched and is examining allegations of an official cover-up over the killing.

The High Court heard that in June 2007, Mr Paisley wrote to Wright’s father providing him with information that the Northern Ireland Prison Service had employed people to destroy around 5,600 files before the Data Protection Act came into effect.

This information, which was provided by a “senior prison officer”, claimed the decision to destroy the files was “taken at the top”.

Inquiry chairman Lord MacLean believed the identity of the prison officer was of great importance to the probe.

He said it would be in the public interest for Mr Paisley to provide the name to the inquiry.

The legal challenge which followed to force Mr Paisley to surrender the information heard evidence from the North's First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson.

Mr Robinson said that if an assurance of confidentiality was given by a public representative, and subsequently breached, the public would not come forward to give information again.

This could, he said, undermine the ability of politicians to challenge the Government on matters which might, as a result, remain hidden.

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