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Statement by Peter Hain announcing his decision to grant the request of the Billy Wright Inquiry to be converted to the Inquiries Act 2005, (23 November 2005)

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Text: British Government ... Page compiled: Brendan Lynn

Written Statement by Peter Hain, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announcing his decision to grant the request of the Billy Wright Inquiry to be converted to the Inquiries Act 2005, (23 November 2005)


"The Chairman of the Billy Wright Inquiry, Lord MacLean, wrote to me on 13 July [2005] formally to request that I convert the statutory basis of the Billy Wright Inquiry to the Inquiries Act 2005, under section 15 of that Act.

I received representations from a number of parties in relation to Lord MacLean's request. I was not formally obliged by the Inquiries Act to consider these but in this case I felt that it would be right to do so and to give the Inquiry Chairman the chance to consider them, if he wished, before responding to his request. It has taken time for me to do this, which is why I have only recently been able to arrive at a decision in relation to Lord MacLean’s request.

I have very carefully considered the representations made by Lord MacLean and by other parties in relation to the request, and have sought to take all the relevant factors into account. My concern throughout has been to ensure that the Billy Wright Inquiry should be able to carry out its work both as fully and as effectively as possible. In light of this, and taking into account both Lord MacLean's case for conversion and the representations which have been made against it, I have decided to grant the request of the Billy Wright Inquiry to be converted to the Inquiries Act 2005.

Through this statement I am formally giving notice under section 15 of the Inquiries Act to Lord MacLean and the panel members that the Billy Wright Inquiry will become an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005. The date of conversion will be the date of this statement, 23 November 2005, and from this date the Billy Wright Inquiry will be held under the Inquiries Act 2005. Lord MacLean will remain the Chair of this Inquiry and there will be no change to its terms of reference as announced on 16 November 2004.

It remains the strong wish of both the Government and the Billy Wright Inquiry that the full facts in relation to the death of Billy Wright should be established. I would seek to reassure those who made representations in opposition to conversion that I am confident that the utmost will be done to address their concerns and to maintain public confidence in the Inquiry, both by the Inquiry itself and by the British Government. I have personally assured Mr. David Wright, Billy Wright's father that the Government will continue to co-operate fully with the Inquiry."



Notes to Editors

The LVF leader Billy Wright was murdered in the Maze prison on 27th December 1997.Three INLA members, Christopher McWilliams, John Kennaway and John Glennon, were convicted of his murder.

The Billy Wright Inquiry, along with inquiries into the deaths of Rosemary Nelson and Robert Hamill, was established following the Report (published in April 2004) of The Honourable Justice Peter Cory, a retired Canadian Judge who examined these cases (and the case of Patrick Finucane) at the Government's request. This was in line with commitments given by the British and Irish Governments at Weston Park.

The announcement of the establishment of the Inquiry was made by Paul Murphy, then Secretary of State, on 16 November 2004. At this time he announced that the chair of the Inquiry would be the Rt Hon Lord MacLean, and the side members would be Andrew Coyle CMG and the Right Rev John Oliver. He also announced that it would be held under the Prison (Northern Ireland) Act 1953 and that its terms of reference would be:

"To inquire into the death of Billy Wright with a view to determining whether any wrongful act or omission by or within the prison authorities or other state agencies facilitated his death, or whether attempts were made to do so; whether any such act or omission was intentional or negligent; and to make recommendations.

At the Preliminary Hearing of the Inquiry on 22 June 2005, Lord MacLean indicated that he was going to formally request that the Secretary of State convert the Billy Wright Inquiry from the Prison (NI) Act 1953 to the Inquires Act 2005, which had just received Royal Assent. He wrote to the Secretary of State shortly thereafter to make a formal request. Further to this the Secretary of State received a number of representations concerning the Inquiry's request for conversion, and met David Wright to hear his views in person.


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