Court D-Day for Ian Paisley Jnr

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The Independent Online

Ian Paisley Jnr was today meeting his solicitors as a High Court deadline ordering him to reveal information on the murder of Billy Wright expired.

The former Northern Irish Junior Minister had been intending to appeal against the ruling over allegations a former prison warder supplied information about procedures at the Maze prison near Belfast where the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) leader was shot dead in 1997.

Mr Paisley, however, today said: “I have not yet lodged any appeal because the courts have been on holiday over Easter.

“A number of issues have arisen in my mind over the last week or so and I am meeting my solicitors this morning to discuss what my options are.

“I intend to make an announcement after that,” he added.

In a statement earlier this month, his solicitor said: “This is the first time that a Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland has been asked to consider the position of an elected public representative under these circumstances and the case has significant implications, not only for our client, but for all elected public representatives in the United Kingdom and indeed Europe.

“The Court of Appeal will be asked to add politicians to the categories of confidentiality along with of journalists, members of the clergy and doctors.”

The north Antrim Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), whose position was supported by First Minister Peter Robinson, said he would go to prison rather than break confidentiality and reveal the identity of the source.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader said: “I have every respect for the courts and acknowledge the difficult task that they faced with the issues that this case raises, but the heart of the democratic system of representation is based upon a constituent being able to talk confidentially to an elected representative and that representative being able to challenge authority where necessary. The recent ruling in this case would undermine that key principle”.

Almost two years ago Mr Paisley wrote to Billy Wright's father saying he had received information that the Northern Ireland Prison Service had employed people to destroy about 5,600 files as part of an alleged policy in relation to data protection legislation.

He said this information, which was provided by a “senior prison officer”, claimed that the decision to destroy the files was “taken at the top”.

But in his ruling in March, Mr Justice Gillen said that although it was important for elected representatives to be able to protect the confidentiality of a source, the information played a central part in enabling the inquiry into Mr Wright’s death to determine whether or not it had been facilitated by the prison authorities.

This article is from The Belfast Telegraph