13 December 2005

Wright's father boycotts tribunal

Belfast Telegraph

New secrecy rules to face court action

By Chris Thornton
13 December 2005

The father of ex-LVF chief Billy Wright boycotted today's resumed inquiry into his son's murder as he prepared a legal challenge to controversial new secrecy rules.

David Wright refused to attend because the preliminary hearing marked the first time the Inquiries Act has been employed.

Mr Wright's move came as inquiry chairman Lord MacLean announced full public hearings have been delayed until September as Government departments have been slow in providing them with material.

The new law - which allows the Government to determine what evidence stays secret - will be challenged in the New Year.

Mr Wright has threatened to pull out of the inquiry entirely, but sources close to the family say he has not made that decision yet. His participation may depend on the outcome of his court case against Secretary of State Peter Hain, challenging his decision to use the Inquiries Act.

Lord MacLean, however, again said the inquiry team believes the Inquiries Act will give them greater scope for investigating whether any state agencies had a role in Wright's killing.

During today's hearing he revealed the three-man tribunal is "concerned at the slow response of a number of Government departments to our requests".

He said their intention to begin full hearings next spring could not be realised and added hearings are now scheduled to begin in September 2006 and will "last well into 2007".

Lord MacLean said another factor in the delay was the four months it took Mr Hain to agree to employ the Inquiries Act.

He also noted "material of a highly sensitive nature" will be blacked out of any documents before they are released.

Lord MacLean said this should not "give cause for concern" because the secret material will be taken into account by the tribunal when writing their report.

He also said Mr Hain has indicated "he has no present intention" of using the secrecy powers available to him under the Act.

The controversial Act has also raised objections from the family of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane.

Mr Finucane's family was due to meet Archbishop Robin Eames today as they discuss their concerns about the law with unionist and Protestant leaders. They met UUP leader Sir Reg Empey yesterday and also hope to meet the DUP.

The family has mounted a successful global campaign to discourage judges from taking up the planned inquiry into the Finucane murder while it remains under the Inquiries Act.

The Act, rushed through Parliament earlier this year, allows the Government to decide what evidence may be heard in public and what may be excluded from inquiry reports.

Previously those decisions were at the discretion of the inquiry chairman.

The Wright and Finucane murders were among four collusion cases former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory recommended for public inquiries.

Wright's case attracted suspicion as his INLA killers were able to smuggle guns into the Maze Prison and avoid security to carry out the murder.

In the 1989 Pat Finucane murder, a police investigation established collusion took place between his UDA killers and security forces.

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