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Friday, 20 October, 2000, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
Early release for Wright killers

McWilliams and Kennaway: Early release after Wright killing:
Two Irish republican prisoners convicted of the murder of loyalist paramilitary leader Billy Wright have been released early.

Irish National Liberation Army members Christopher McWilliams, and John Gerard Kennaway, both 37, walked free from Magilligan Prison in County Londonderry on Friday - less than three years after the killing at the Maze Prison.

Fellow prisoner and INLA member John Glennon was released on Friday under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Their release follows a programme of releases under the peace accord, which led to the closure of Maze last month.


McWilliams: Claimed targeting Wright in the Maze was easy
About 25 supporters greeted McWilliams and Kennaway as they walked from the prison gates.

Kennaway, disguised with a cap and dark glasses, was ushered to a waiting car as McWilliams spoke to reporters.

McWilliams said he had "no regrets" about the Wright murder.

Asked how they were about to target Wright in prison, McWilliams said that prison routines on relatives visiting after Christmas were well known

He described as "hypocrites" unionist politicians who had called for a public inquiry and he offered to return to the Maze Prison to stage a reconstruction of the murder. McWilliams said he regarded the Wright family as the "equal victims to the countless other families who have suffered as a result of the conflict in our country".

He said the INLA ceasefire was fully intact and he supported the peace process.

Splinter group

Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Billy Wright, was one of the most notorious loyalists of the Troubles.

Wright formed the breakaway LVF after his unit was expelled from the mainstream Ulster Volunteer Force for its part in the murder of Catholic taxi-driver Michael McGoldrick after the Loyalist Combined Military Command called a ceasefire.

Wright's death sparked a bloody wave of revenge killings of Catholics by members of the LVF.

He was shot as he sat in the back of a prison van at the Maze on 27 December 1997.

McWilliams, Kennaway and Glennon climbed out of their INLA compound onto a prison roof and gained access to the loyalist compound where they shot Wright, as he waited to be taken to a meeting with his girlfriend.

He was hit by up to seven shots fired from two guns - a 9mm automatic Makarov pistol and a double-barrelled derringer pistol - which had been smuggled into the jail.

Prosecutor Patrick Lynch QC described the murders as "obviously a coolly planned operation" during the trio's trial in October 1998.

Inquiry

All three were jailed for life for the murder and 20 years for possession of weapons.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement - signed less than four months after the murder - the men all received early release.

Next week Billy Wright's father, David, will take a report on the killing from the group British-Irish Rights Watch to Westminster.

The report will also be sent to the British and Irish governments and to the United Nations.

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See also:

28 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Prisoners moved out of Maze
07 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Inquiry into Wright corpse photos
01 Feb 00 | Northern Ireland
LVF leader murder scene visit
28 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
NI prisoners savour freedom
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