Wright inquiry shows need for prisons reform - SDLP
The SDLP said the Billy Wright inquiry findings may have ruled out collusion, but wide-ranging negligence in the Prisons Service underlined the urgent need for extensive reform.
The party's Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly said collusion in the narrow sense defined by Justice Peter Cory was never really the issue but the fault lines which led to murder ran right through the RUC, MI5 and Prison Service.
She added: "There was specific intelligence on the threat to Billy Wright's life and the finding that the failure to pass it on amounted to 'deliberate malpractice' on the part of the RUC is damning.
"Billy Wright was an evil, dangerous man and those who murdered him were very similar. The Maze was a dangerous place but this cannot excuse the litany of negligence that the inquiry found, including both omissions and wrongful acts which facilitated the murder.
"There is no reason to think that the Prison Service has mended its ways and there are many recent indications that it has not.
"Perhaps the greatest service this inquiry has done is to recommend that the Prison Service needs the sort of thorough, root-and-branch reform that the Patten process brought to policing.
Sinn Fein claimed Wright had been controlled, directed and manipulated by the state. The inquiry had been limited in its focus to the circumstances surrounding Wright's death and it came no surprise that the report placed much of the blame at the feet of the prison administration, it said.
Assembly member John O'Dowd said: "It is important not to forget that Wright was a unionist paramilitary leader involved in the murder of up to 30 innocent Catholics.
"Many of Billy Wright's victims would be much more interested in a proper investigation into his activities when alive, including his relationship with senior unionist politicians like Willie McCrea, rather than simply the circumstances surrounding his death."