Billy Wright (loyalist)

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Billy Wright (7 July 1960 – 27 December 1997) was a prominent Northern Irish loyalist paramilitary.[1] A former member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), he was leader of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) when assassinated by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in 1997.


Contents

Early life and entering the UVF

Billy Wright was born in Wolverhampton to a Northern Irish Protestant family,[2] but was raised in Mountnorris, in south Armagh (a predominantly Irish nationalist area). Wright's parents separated when he was six and he lived for a time in a children's home in Mountnorris. The young Wright mixed with Catholics and played Gaelic football indicating an amicable relationship with the local Catholic, nationalist population. Nor were his family extreme loyalists. Wright's father, while campaigning for an inquest into his son's death, would later describe loyalist killings as "abhorrent".

However, Billy Wright joined the youth section of the Ulster Volunteer Force at the age of fifteen, partly in response to the Kingsmill massacre of 1976, when ten local Protestants were killed by republicans. Wright's uncle, father-in-law and brother-in-law were also killed by republicans in this period. Wright later said of the Kingsmill massacre, "I was 15 when those workmen were pulled out of that bus and shot dead. I was a Protestant and I realised that they had been killed simply because they were Protestants. I left Mountnorris, came back to Portadown and immediately joined the youth wing of the UVF. I felt it was my duty to help my people and that is what I have been doing ever since."[3]

Locals say he was also "indoctrinated" by local loyalist paramilitaries.[2] Wright was soon arrested as a result of his UVF activities and was sentenced to six years in prison for arms offences and hijacking in 1977. He served 42 months for these crimes at the Crumlin Road and Maze prisons. When his prison term was completed, Wright went briefly to Scotland but soon returned to Portadown in Northern Ireland. He worked there as an insurance salesman, married and had two daughters. He also became a Born again Christian in this period and worked as a gospel preacher in county Armagh. Wright's religious faith had contradictory influences on his life. On the one hand, he argued that his faith drove him to defend the 'Protestant people of Ulster', while at the same time, he conceded that the way in which he had taken that fight to the "enemy", the cold blooded murder of non combatant civilians, would ensure his damnation.[4][5] He said of this dilemma:[6] :94

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