(en) Updates on Ireland from Derry's Pat Finucane Centre

Fri, 03 Oct 1997 09:33:54 +0100 (BST)

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Sender: Updates on Ireland from Derry's Pat Finucane Centre <PFCNEWS@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU>

Tuesday 30 September 1997

Scots Guards

The family of murdered Belfast teenager Peter Mc Bride have reacted angrily to the revelation that the two Scots Guards who were convicted of the 1992 murder of their son remain members of the Scots Guards Regiment despite the murder convictions. Confirmation that the two ,Mark Wright and James Fisher, who are serving life sentences , continue as members of the Regiment came following a query from the Pat Finucane Centre to the Ministry of Defence through the office of Labour MP Kevin Mc Namara. The 18 year old father of two was shot dead on the morning of September 4 1992 in Upper Meadow St in the New Lodge Road. The two guardsmen claimed that they felt threatened by the youth who was running away from them but this was rejected by the court.

Following news that the two remain members of their regiment the Centre issued a press statement. Inquiries by an Irish News journalist to British Army HQ in Lisburn led to the duty press officer requesting that the story be held back a day to allow a response. When the Irish News refused to do so Army HQ phoned back at 9.30 that night to inform the journalist that the two were in the process of being dismissed from the British Army, information apparently not available to the Ministry of Defence three days beforehand when they answered the original query from the office of a Labour MP. Army HQ claimed that dismissal proceedings had been held back pending the outcome of the final legal appeal of the murder conviction. That appeal was rejected last March, six months ago.

Peter Mc Bride, father of the murdered New Lodge teenager, has called on Defence Minister George Robertson MP to explain "why two convicted murderers are seen fit to remain members of the British Army ? What kind of message does this send to our family ? As far as the Ministry of Defence is concerned it looks like the only thing the two did wrong was to get caught. Those who have allowed these two to stay in the Scots Guards have spat on the grave of our son. We are sick to the stomach. Does Peter's life mean nothing to all these Brigadiers and Government Ministers ?" The Mc Bride family are also angered by a report on the case in the latest edition of the Sunday Times which contained a number of inaccuracies regarding the circumstances of Peter Mc Brides death.

A spokesperson for the Pat Finucane Centre, Paul O'Connor, condemned "the total insensitivity of the MOD and the Scots Guards Regiment who have supported a campaign for the early release of the two men based on the insulting and racist premise that they "were only doing their job". Members of the British Army found guilty of serious offences in Britain receive immediate dishonourable discharges yet Lee Clegg, Ian Thain, Mark Wright and James Fisher have all been allowed to remain members of their regiment whilst in prison. To add insult to injury the early release of Thain and Clegg is now being used to campaign for the early release of Peter Mc Bride's killers." In a newspaper interview earlier this year the mother of Mark Wright revealed that she had been assured that Guardsman Wright would be allowed to serve again , "We have been told he won't be going back to Ulster and I don't think he would want to go back again anyway. It's more likely he will be sent to Germany." (Daily Mail, March 1, 1997 page 19) In the same interview it was revealed that taxpayers money is used to fly the families of the two Guardsmen to visit them in prison each month.

Paul O' Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre commented, "Next month the Life Sentence Review Board will decide whether these individuals should be released early based on guidelines related to retribution and deterrence. The State, in a court of law, found that the two were "untruthful and evasive" and dismissed any suggestion that the two had reacted in a "panic situation." They were convicted by the State of murder yet both continue to be employed by the State, their wages are paid into a bank account, and the transport costs which enable their families to visit the convicted men once a month are paid by the taxpayer. In addition State employees, senior members of the Scots Guards Regiment, are involved in a campaign based at State property, the Scots Guards HQ in London, to win freedom for the men on the premise that they did nothing wrong and to quote a senior member of the regiment are "good Scottish soldiers". How can retribution and deterrence be seen to have been done while the Establishment, the State, shows such undiluted contempt for the family of the victim and uncritical support for the perpetrators ? The State has shown no sense of retribution and deterrence can hardly be said to have been served where the message goes out that five years is the upper limit for the murder of Irish civilians."

News that the two are to be finally dismissed from the British Army leaves open a number of questions. When was that decision made? Have the two Guardsmen received wages for any period of time following their convictions? Does the British Army continue to transport their families to the North of Ireland for prison visits? Why is the partner of one of the two men put up in army quarters?

Should the Life Sentence Review Board, which meets on the 14 and 15 of October, recommend early release, the final controversial decision will rest with the Secretary of State, Mo Mowlam. It is understood that the Mc Bride family will take the unusual step of making a personal written submission to the Review Board.

Briefing on the case of Peter McBride and the campaign to free his murderers.

Roisin Mc Aliskey Court Hearing

Extradition proceedings in a London court against Roisin Mc Aliskey were postponed today as Roisin was too ill to attend the hearing. The judge stated however that he was willing to allow the extradition of the Co Tyrone woman to Germany to go ahead despite the fact that the evidence offered by the German authorities has been discredited. Roisin is wanted for questioning in relation to an IRA bombing in Osnabruck, Germany. There is considerable evidence that she is the innocent victim of a vendetta being waged against her mother, the prominent activist, Bernadette Mc Aliskey. More information is available on our homepage including details of the RUC officers involved in the interrogation of Roisin at Castlereagh interrogation centre in Belfast.

Sectarian Attacks

As the political talks get under way at Stormont in Belfast sectarian attacks continue in different areas. North Belfast has witnessed a series of confrontations across the so-called peaceline prompting the Irish News to call for the metal fencing to be constructed even higher. In Newbuildings, a village outside Derry, Catholic homes and a Catholic primary school were targeted by stone throwers at the weekend. The protest by loyalists outside the Catholic chapel in Harryville, Ballymena continued this past weekend with reports that the protests are to spread to other Catholic chapels in the North. At present worshippers are only able to enter the church through a phalanx of riot clad RUC officers. See previous updates. At a Unionist rally in the Ulster Hall on Monday night 29.9, some 1500 people heard the Rev. Ian Paisley MP and Robert Mc Cartney MP urge opposition to the participation of Unionists in any talks involving Sinn Fein. Calls at the rally for "resistance" to the present peace process are widely feared to be interpreted in the form of further sectarian attacks and an upsurge in activity by the Loyalist Volunteer Force who are close to the thinking of Democratic Unionist Party.

RUC Harassment

Local community leaders and a former SDLP mayor of Derry, Councillor John Tierney , have condemned the "heavy handed tactics" of the RUC in the Ballymagroaty housing estate in Derry. The RUC have been accused of photographing children in the area and "systemic physical and verbal harassment of young people according to the Derry Journal. Parents and other adults who attempted to intervene have been threatened by RUC officers.

Internment Legislation Abandoned

The British Labour Government has announced that legislation which allows the Government to introduce internment, imprisonment without trial, is to be removed from the law books. The move to abandon the controversial law is seen as a confidence building measure in the peace process. The weapon of internment has existed since the foundation of the Northern Ireland state but its implementation by the Unionist Government in August 1971's now regarded as one most inept political and military decisions of the time. The arrest of thousands of innocent men which followed the introduction of internment and their subsequent imprisonment in internment camps and a ship in Belfast harbour alienated nationalist opinion, strengthened the IRA and caused an international outcry. By the mid seventies the British Government had recognised this and attempted to phase in a policy of criminalisation of political prisoners, a policy which was to eventually lead to the IRA hunger strikes and the death of ten prisoners. Though some Unionist politicians continue to demand the reintroduction of internment it has long been clear that this was not an option. The decision to abandon the legislation altogether is a recognition of that political reality. *************************** Encounter2 -> http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/3849/gatherdx.html

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