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Billy Wright

See also Billy Wright (footballer)

Billy Wright (1960 - December 27, 1997) was a Northern Irish terrorist, a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and leader of the extremist Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF).

He was born in Wolverhampton to a Irish Protestant family, but was raised in Mount Norris[?], South Armagh[?]. He joined the youth section of the UVF aged fifteen in response to the Kingmills massacre[?], he was soon arrested and sentenced to six years for hijacking and arms offenses in 1977. He served 42 months at the Crumlin Road[?] and Maze prisons. Leaving prison he went briefly to Scotland but soon returned to Ulster. He was arrested repeatedly throughout the 1980s on suspicion of murder and conspiracy. He was also targetted by the IRA and also the INLA leader Dominic McGlinchey[?]. Wright's uncle, father-in-law and brother-in-law were all shot dead. He was nicknamed 'King Rat' by the Irish press.

Wright became commander of a brigade in the mid-Ulster area around Portadown[?] and directed some brutal sectarian killings (notably at Greysteel and Loughinisland) and successful actions against the IRA. It is also claimed that he was one of the most significant drug dealers in the area, primarily in ecstasy. He attempted to join the top leaders in 1996 but was refused. He broke away from the UVF after they failed to support the Orange Order march at Drumcree in July 1996. A Catholic man, Micheál McGoldrick, was found dead near Lurgan on July 8, 1996 as part of an unapproved operation by Wright, another Catholic, James Morgan, was killed soon after. Wright was dismissed from the UVF and threatened with execution. Wright ignored the threat and formed the LVF, taking members mainly from his old UVF brigade. They were joined by other loyalists disaffected by the peace process, giving them a maximum strength estimated at around 250 activists. They operated outside the Combined Loyalist Military Command[?] and ignored the ceasefire order of October 1994.

Despite a series of sectarian murders and attacks on Catholic property attributed to the LVF through 1996-1997 (although they were not claimed), Wright was not successfully imprioned until March 1997 when he was convicted of threatening to kill a woman and sentenced to eight years. Initially imprisoned at HMP Maghaberry[?] he was sent to Maze again in April 1997. He demanded and was granted a LVF section in C and D wings of H-block 6 (H6) for himself and 26 comrades, INLA prisoners were in A and B and the IRSP[?] warned there would be trouble. In May the LVF agreed to a ceasefire. In August 1997 LVF prisoners rioted over their visiting accommodation.

Wright was shot and killed by a INLA prisoner on the morning of December 27 while waiting in a van to be taken to the prison visits area. Three INLA prisoners gave themselves up and were later convicted of the murder.

The LVF was reduced without its leader and became more closely tied to the UFF of Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair. The group committed a series of almost random attacks on Catholic civilians in revenge for the death of Wright. Martin O'Hagan, a journalist Wright especially disliked, was killed in September 2001 by the Red Hand Defenders[?], a Loyalist cover-name.

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