Chairman: Lord MacLean

Report of The Billy Wright Inquiry

Chapter 15

Intelligence (Billy Wright and the Irish National Liberation Army)

The Decision Taken by the INLA to Murder Billy Wright


This matter has been very fully covered in the submissions, running to 25 pages, made on behalf of the Wright family which the Panel have carefully considered. Those submissions open with a Summary by the Billy Wright Inquiry of Security Service and MoD Information Relating to the Murder of Billy Wright (SS01-0358). The information in the Summary refers to the time when the decision was taken to murder Billy Wright in prison, and also by whom it was taken. It must also be borne in mind in this context that the Panel have seen the documentary material from which the Summary is taken.


The Summary says information was received in January 1998 that the decision to murder Billy Wright in prison was taken ‘in the middle of December 1997’ by an INLA Ard Chomhairle at which the INLA Chief of Staff was present. The murder was to be carried out using ‘a gun that was probably in the prison by that time’. The reason for the decision was to avenge the murder of Gerry Devlin of the GAA which had been committed immediately prior to the IRSP Ard Fheis on 6 December 1997 which was interpreted by IRSP/INLA as being timed to intimidate its members. The decision was considered by the leadership to be consistent with a policy of ‘defence and retaliation’. Part of the INLA plan was to attack Billy Wright when he was separated from other LVF members and was accessible to the INLA prisoners, and when the watchtowers were unmanned. There was no information as to how any guns had been smuggled into HMP Maze. If the information is correct, it would appear that the decision was reached some time between 6 December 1997 and the middle of December 1997.


As stated in 15.223, on 16 December 1997 a senior INLA member, who was a member of the Ard Chomhairle, visited the OC INLA in H6 at HMP Maze. It might reasonably be inferred that the purpose of his visit was to relay the decision of the Ard Chomhairle to have Billy Wright murdered. If that and the information in the Summary are correct, the decision was reached in the middle of December 1997 and at any rate by 16 December 1997.


In the evening of 15 December 1997 the same senior INLA member was present at a meeting at Belfast Address 2 of members of the INLA. These individuals were identified by the positions they held in the INLA, except for two who are not identified in any way. The fact that these two were not identified may be explained in a number of ways. We do not agree, for the reasons we will give shortly, with the submission on behalf of the Wright family that that in itself raises a suspicion regarding their status.


In his Report former ACC Kinkaid stated that the visit to OC INLA at H6 of HMP Maze on 16 December 1997 (see 15.244) supported his view that the senior INLA member was one of those present at the meeting at which the decision to murder Billy Wright was taken. In his evidence, however, he retracted the view that it was taken at the meeting referred to in paragraph 1 of the Summary, and the reason he did so was because of the composition of the two meetings referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Summary.


In answer to questions from the Chairman, former ACC Kinkaid said that he would have worded the Report differently if, in 2007, he had seen paragraphs 2 to 5 of the Summary because he believed that the description of the meeting in paragraph 2 of SS01-0358 was different from the description of the meeting in paragraph 1. The type of people who were described as going to the latter were ‘foot soldiers’ who could not have taken such a decision. Those referred to in paragraph 2 would have had the authority to take the decision. They were the ‘top brass’. He based that opinion upon his own professional police knowledge. That opinion was supported in the main by ACC Finlay who said of the meeting referred to in paragraph 1, that it was not an Ard Chomhairle meeting.


This evidence was criticised in the Wright family submissions (at page 209) because it appeared to be based upon ‘the assessment of PSNI Officers of the nature of the personalities in attendance and not on hard evidence that the decision to kill Billy Wright was not discussed’. For our part, we do not see why it should not be based on such an assessment given in evidence, especially since it came, in our opinion, from two witnesses whom the Inquiry found to be entirely credible. We also note that in the Wright family submissions (at page 198) it is said: ‘Mr Kinkaid came forward as a straightforward, honest witness.’


The evidence does not, however, solely rest upon these two ACCs as PSNI officers. Witness AH, who was a member of the Security Service, said that, apart from COS INLA, those attending the meeting referred to in paragraph 1 were unlikely to have been part of any Ard Chomhairle, given their designations. The other members of the Ard Chomhairle were not in attendance. The Inquiry must proceed only on the evidence it has received and found to be acceptable, not on evidence it has not heard.


In the submissions for the Wright family it is said in two places that the meeting described in paragraph 2 was also held on 15 December 1997, under reference to former ACC Kinkaid’s evidence. Neither citation supports what is asserted. Indeed, one looks in vain at the whole of former ACC Kinkaid’s evidence for any statement by him that the Ard Chomhairle meeting was held on 15 December 1997. All that can be said is that the decision to murder Billy Wright was taken at a meeting held in the middle of December 1997 and referred to in paragraph 2 of the Summary.


What, if anything, may be set against this? We turn now to consider the evidence of Lord Stevens, DCS Vince McFadden and Detective Chief Inspector Graham Taylor in relation to the information they received from ACC Finlay and how that information was conveyed to the Inquiry team. They all met informally in Mr Finlay’s office in Belfast on 2 October 2007 when there was discussion about a number of matters, including the Billy Wright Inquiry. According to Mr McFadden, the meeting was informed by Mr Finlay that the Inquiry was about to be given additional new material that included material in relation to two informants and a warning that was given in relation to a threat to the life of Billy Wright. Mr McFadden thought that this was significant information but, as Mr Finlay later said, he did not recall the use of adjectives like ‘significant’ or ‘substantial’ but if they were used they were capable of relative interpretation. Mr Finlay also said that they would have been in relation only to the PSNI finding the April NIIR (referred to in the Summary scanned at SS01-0218) and the details of the meeting described at paragraph 1 of the Summary scanned at SS01-0358. Mr Finlay did not say to the meeting that the PSNI had received information that in December 1997 SB knew Billy Wright was to be killed and did nothing about it, and he was emphatic in saying the PSNI had not withheld any information from the Inquiry.


On the following day, 3 October 2007, members of the Inquiry team visited Mr McFadden and Mr Taylor at the Stevens Enquiry office in London. Notes were taken at that meeting from which it is clear that the Billy Wright Inquiry team were given information in relation to the meeting at which the decision to murder Billy Wright was taken, though this information did not refer to any dates. On 25 October 2007 Messrs McFadden and Taylor visited the Billy Wright Inquiry offices in Edinburgh. First they met the Inquiry team and in the afternoon they met the Inquiry Panel. By that time the Report prepared by former ACC Kinkaid had been provided to the Billy Wright Inquiry.


At the outset of the meeting with the Inquiry team, Senior Counsel to the Inquiry addressed Messrs McFadden and Taylor thus according to the Note of the Meeting:

‘On basis of conversation you (Stevens) had with PSNI (AF) you told us that [BLANK] at meeting on 15/12 and that RUC SB knew BW was to be killed & did nothing about it. We have now received KINKAID report. It is completely at odds with what you told us. Fundamental issue.’

It has, however, to be said that neither Mr McFadden nor Mr Taylor ever mentioned that particular date or indeed any date in the discussions which they had with the Billy Wright Inquiry team in the course of 2007.


We agree that the date was a fundamental issue which illustrates the problem with this evidence. Former ACC Kinkaid who, according to ACC Finlay, was acting on his own in compiling the Report, had been instructed by the Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde, to carry out a thorough investigation in order to satisfy the Inquiry that the PSNI had produced all the material information and documentation in their possession, about which, until Mr Kinkaid had reported and had given his evidence, the Inquiry were more sceptical.


Mr Kinkaid was the source for the information Mr Finlay had and, in turn, Mr Finlay was the source for the information which the Stevens team acquired. In this area at least, the Stevens team had no original information, only what was derived from Mr Finlay. Now that all the evidence has been heard, it is clear that, at least on the part of Messrs McFadden and Taylor, there was a misunderstanding as to the information they received from ACC Finlay on 2 October 2007. If that is properly understood, no doubt can be cast on the assertion in the Summary at SS01-0358 that the decision to murder Billy Wright may well have been taken at the meeting referred to in paragraph 2 of SS01-0358 but that that information was received and disseminated to RUC SB only in January 1998 after the murder.


As is stated at the outset of this section the Panel have considered carefully the lengthy submissions made on behalf of the Wright family with regard to the decision by the INLA to murder Billy Wright. The submissions contain much that can properly be regarded as speculation or supposition. It is understandable that this is so because some of the material with which they had to deal was redacted or the subject of a prepared Summary. The Panel have, however, had the benefit of sight of entirely unredacted material upon the basis of which the views expressed above are founded. In these circumstances the submissions on behalf of the Wright family are not accepted.