Category: Archive

Op-Ed: Even Billy Wright’s death deserves a collusion inquiry

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Chis Anderson

When discussions take place on the subject of injustices, particularly concerning Irish issues, there is without doubt, the belief that the individual we support or whose case we put forward, are above reproach or possess integrity. They are pure and unsullied.

However, when the individual under discussion possesses a questionable past or indeed is considered to be less than wholesome, widespread sympathy or indeed public support of any kind is found to be distinctly lacking.

To adopt such an attitude not only indicates a selective mind, it also quite clearly identifies a belief in selective justice. And selective justice quite clearly is no form of justice whatsoever.

Such attitudes, despite our attempts at denial, are prevalent within Northern Ireland. They do little to enhance the prospects of a lasting political settlement being achieved there in the near future.

One only has to compare the case of murdered loyalist Billy Wright to those of murdered lawyers Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucane to see that such prejudice still exists.

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All three murders raise serious and alarming issues that must be addressed. They are all equally deserving of immediate attention. However, it appears that as far as the authorities in Northern Ireland are concerned, and also to a certain extent those in the Republic and U.S., the priorities lie with the nationalist cases as opposed to the loyalist one.

There can be little doubt that the current perception of Billy Wright has contributed considerably to the lack of public support for a full inquiry into the circumstances of his death. He was both despised and feared by the Nationalist and Republican communities throughout Ireland. That perception has been enhanced by the mythology that has been allowed to grow around him since his death. Indeed, many now say this very same mythology has been deliberately nurtured to deter possible investigation into his death.

The current public perception of Wright is such that it inhibits any possibility of real justice being applied to the circumstances of his murder. "Respectable people" in Ireland and America are reluctant to speak out on his behalf, conscious no doubt of the damage that would be done to their social or political status by becoming associated with such a notorious loyalist paramilitary. This applies particularly in the U.S., where a nationalist agenda prevails. It has, therefore, been left to Wright’s father, David, a man of 66, to carry on, almost singlehandedly the campaign for a public inquiry.

What a contrast to the Nelson and Finucane campaigns. Here the mighty and the powerful have amalgamated to bellow out claims of state collusion and RUC involvement. Those self-righteous people are noticeably silent in relation to similar claims regarding Wright’s murder.

U.N. representatives, U.S. senators, congressmen, civil rights groups and legal bodies all cry with a single voice in support of the Nelson and Finucane families. Those killings are visible on a world stage. This is right and proper. No true democrat would deny these families the right to the truth. It must be made known and sooner rather than later. However, are the Wright family any less deserving of similar concerns when they voice similar claims of state collusion?

David Wright, despite numerous written requests been refused any type of meeting with the British authorities. Both the British prime-minister and Northern Secretary Mo Mowlam say the conviction of three members of the INLA in October 1998 for Wright’s murder of is sufficient to say that justice has been done.

It must be remembered that Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucane were killed in open society. The murder of Billy Wright however, took place outside society, within the confines of what is alleged to be the most secure jail in western Europe. Those who pulled the trigger on Wright were also inmates of that prison. Questions must be asked as to how that happened. David Wright is entitled to ask those questions.

The contrast between the Billy Wright case and those of Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucane is enormous. However, there are many common denominators that link not only the deaths but also the families. All three were brutally murdered. Many questions remain unanswered about the murders. The most serious however, is the allegation of state collusion in all three.

Where such allegations exist it is incumbent upon the authorities to address them immediately. Otherwise they fester and in turn create further suspicions and distrust within their respective communities in Northern Ireland. Clearly, all three cases require close and independent examination.

Independence is a key word to the success of any such inquiries. The onus of investigation must not be placed upon the RUC, which is not capable of investigating what really lies at the heart of these issues.

It is also imperative that all three killings be handled with equality. This has been distinctly absent to date. The case of Billy Wright must be placed on the same level as those of Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucane. No difference must be made. They are all equally deserving of justice.

All three were human beings. Difficult though it will be for many, the prejudices we have in respect of any of these people must be put aside. They cannot be allowed to influence the right that justice must be applied to all three families. Whether loyalist or nationalist justice is a basic human right. Even in death that must be applied, fairly and without discrimination.

The people of middle class, respectable America and Ireland cannot expect to be taken seriously until they move away from selective justice and campaign for inclusive justice for all. The children of Billy Wright have suffered just the same as Rosemary Nelson`s or Pat Finucane’s. All equally need to know the truth.

(The writer is a free-lance journalist living in Northern Ireland who has contributed to the Irish Times, Irish Independent, Ireland on Sunday, Sunday Business Post plus other publications. He is currently writing a biography of loyalist Billy Wright.)

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