I will take informant’s name to my grave, says defiant Paisley

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The Independent Online

The inquiry into the killing of loyalist Billy Wright will have to initiate formal proceedings against Ian Paisley Jnr who is defying a Belfast High Court order to name a prison officer informant.

The six-strong inquiry team, headed by retired Scottish appeal judge the Rt Hon Lord MacLean, must decide their next move and then contact the High Court.

A spokesman said the inquiry was aware of Mr Paisley’s decision not to appeal against the order and the issue was being considered.

The former Junior Minister said he had reconsidered his initial intention to appeal against the decision over information relating to the death of the Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Billy Wright 11 years ago.

As the deadline for the Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) to supply the name to the High Court elapsed, Mr Paisley said he would take the identity of his source “to the grave”.

“I am not trying to evade justice, it is up to the courts to decide if they should punish me over what is really a civil disobedience issue.

“I also do not want to be used as an excuse for delaying the Wright inquiry. Others, including journalists and prison officers who appeared at the inquiry, refused to name their sources and they have not been pursued.

“This is not about defying the law or ignoring the court. But I will be taking the name of my informant to my grave. That is my duty.”

“I don't believe it's in my personal or financial interests to keep it running. If I appeal and win, this case goes to the House of Lords. If I don't appeal and just let the case continue to run back to the High Court, nothing changes for me — I'm not revealing the name.”

Almost two years ago Mr Paisley wrote to Billy Wright's father, David, 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.

And the High Court judge added he was satisfied that the inquiry had provided a clear and compelling case and ordered Mr Paisley to provide the information within 17 days. Then in a statement earlier this month, Mr Paisley’s 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 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”.

This article is from The Belfast Telegraph