(en) Updates on Ireland

anarchy_irl (anarchy_irl@geocities.com)
Tue, 21 Oct 1997 11:24:54 +0000

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Date: Sun, 19 Oct 1997 05:15:44 +0000 From: "F. Stuart Ross" <fsross@mailbox.syr.edu> Subject: PFC NEWS UPDATE Sender: Updates on Ireland from Derry's Pat Finucane Centre <PFCNEWS@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU>

October 16, 1997

United Nations Special Rapporteur

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers is to carry out an official investigative visit to the North in the next days. Dato'Param Cumaraswamy, a lawyer from Malaysia, is here to investigate the following matters: the abuse of defence lawyers; questions surrounding access to legal advice, including deferrals, refusal to allow solicitors to remain during police interviews, and, in Britain, closed legal visits in prisons the absence of video- and audio-recording in the holding centres in the North of Ireland (On Thursday, 16th October, the RUC announced that video but not audio recording of interviews will be allowed in the interrogation centres); provisions in the emergency laws such as the absence of a jury, lower threshold for admissibility of confession evidence, and the abrogation of the right to silence, that impinge on the ability of the judiciary to function the failure to exempt lawyers' offices from the bugging provisions in the Police Act.

The UN inquiry will also look into the death of Pat Finucane, the Belfast solicitor after whom the Pat Finucane Centre was named. He was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in 1989. His murder took place in the context of frequent allegations of RUC intimidation of defence lawyers (pages 30-32 of Amnesty International's report on "Political Killings in Northern Ireland" discuss the killing of Pat Finucane.)

Release call for Roisin McAliskey

Speaking at Belfast's Conway Mill earlier this week, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark called for the immediate release of Roisin McAliskey. Mr. Clark is currently heading an international inquiry into Ms. McAliskey's case. He is working closely with Heidi Bache- Wiig, a Norwegian human rights lawyer and extradition expert.

Roisin McAliskey is currently in a London hospital pending her extradition to Germany. According to her mother, Bernadette McAliskey, legal proceedings on Roisin's behalf are "stuck." The magistrate in charge of Roisin 's case will not order her extradition until R& oacute;isin is well enough to attend court. It seems unlikely that this will happen any time soon.

Residents Groups and the Parades Commission

A statement was recently issued by a number of residents groups concerned with the marching issue questioning the fairness and credibility of the government appointed Parades Commission. The statement argues that "the Commission as a whole has failed to act impartially and independently and there is evidence that some of the members have pre-judged the issues" associated with the parading crisis. It calls upon members of the Parades Commission to resign and, "failing that, we [the residents groups] urge the Secretary of State to scrap this discredited vestige of the Patrick Mayhew era and replace it with a genuinely independent Commission capable to making a real contribution towards resolving the marching issue." There is strong evidence to suggest that the Chairperson of the Parades Commission was party to the decision to force an Orange parade through the Garvaghy Rd in Portadown in July. The Pat Finucane Centre met with the Commission in our office weeks before the parade and came to the same conclusion that the issue had already been pre-judged.

The Parades Commission was established solely to deal with the issue of contentious parades in the North of Ireland. It has been suggested that new legislation drafted by the British Government may expand the Commission's remit to cover other aspects of cultural identity in the North of Ireland, including the activities of the Gaelic Athletic Association.

Life Sentence Review Board

The family of Belfast man Peter McBride, murdered by two Scots Guards in September of 1992, presented a letter of protest to the Life Sentence Review Board (LSRB) on Tuesday (14/10) of this week. The review board was meeting, in part, to consider the early release of Scots Guardsmen Mark Wright and James Fisher.

The two soldiers were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Peter McBride. The family has expressed its concern at the high profile campaign waged by senior military and political figures calling for the early release of the soldiers. The campaign has already led to the early review of the case which would not normally receive consideration until ten years of a life sentence has been served.

Below is a copy of the letter from the McBride family. Thus far, the LSRB has promised to take the letter into consideration and will e for the first time ever e let the victim's family know their decision, through the Pat Finucane Centre, before word reaches the press. The Centre has publicised the case on behalf of the family and accompanied relatives to the Review Board.

Dear Mr Chairman,

We are writing to your Review Board as a family who have lost a son and brother, Peter Mc Bride. Your Board is set to review the life sentences imposed on the two Scots Guards, Mark Wright and James Fisher, who murdered Peter on September 4 1992. Peter was 18 years of age and the father of two daughters when he was shot in the back. The two men convicted of the murder were described by the judge as "untruthful and evasive" and during court appearances no remorse at all was shown. To add insult to injury Guardsman Wright smirked and gave the 'thumbs up' to members of our family during the trial. This caused great distress to us.

The Secretary of State, Dr Mo Mowlam, has told our family that the review process "will take account of all the circumstances surrounding the murder" of our son and brother. That being so we would point to remarks made by the judge in summing up, " I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that there was no reasonable possibility that Guardsman Fisher held or may have held an honest belief that the deceased carried or may have carried a coffee jar bomb." As regards Guardsman Wright the trial judge made clear this was "not a panic situation which required split second action or indeed any action at all."

We have found it deeply offensive as a family to witness a high profile campaign calling for the early release of the killers of Peter. This campaign has been coordinated by members of the Scots Guards such as Lieutenant General Sir David Scott-Bennett and Regimental Council member Colonel John Clavering. The thrust of the entire campaign has been that the two "were only doing their duty" and should be released because your Review Board responded to similar campaigns on behalf of Paratrooper Lee Clegg and Private Ian Thain. How can deterrence or retribution be seen to have been served if senior British military figures argue that five years is too long a sentence for the murder of a human being, a working class Irish Catholic? What kind of message does that send out to our family, our community or in particular to members of the British Army?

Life sentences are not normally reviewed for at least ten years except under exceptional circumstances. The only exceptional circumstances in the death of our son are that his killers were and still are members of the British Army even though they are serving life sentences. We do not seek revenge merely justice. Should your Review Board recommend the early release of these two men this would be a violation of natural justice and legal norms. We request in all sincerity that the members of your board do not recommend early release. To do otherwise would send the clear message to our family that we have spent 18 years loving, caring for and raising a son whose life meant nothing to a State whose duty it is to uphold the right to life not take it away.

On behalf of the Mc Bride family

Right to Truth

In a recent interview on RTE with journalist Vincent Brown, Republican Sinn Fein president (and former "Provisional" Sinn Fein president) Ruairi O Bradaigh made the incredible claim that the IRA were not involved in the disastrous Birmingham pub bombings of 1974.

The Pat Finucane Centre found such a comment to be both sad and unhelpful. As human rights activists, we believe in the "right to truth" for the victims and families of those who suffer human rights abuses at the hands of the State. We campaigned for the release of those framed for the bombing, the Birmingham Six. The Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign is based at our Centre. We continue to push for a full independent inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane and support the relatives of those killed in the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings in their quest for justice.

Our support for the "right to truth," however, is not limited to the actions of the State. The people of Birmingham also have a "right to truth." For Ruairi O Bradaigh, who strongly opposes the present peace strategy pursued by Sinn Fein, to deny IRA involvement is dishonest and insulting to the families of the victims. Only when these and other questions are honestly answered can the Irish and British people, however they might define themselves, begin to construct a more positive set of relationships.

Violence at Loyalist Counter Demonstration

A march in Co. Fermanagh commemorating the 200th anniversary of the execution of three local United Irishmen sparked a number of confrontations between loyalist counter-demonstrators and the RUC. Though march organisers voluntarily re-routed sections of Sunday's march from Enniskillen to Roslea, the newly formed Combined Loyalists Residents Committee of Co. Fermanagh claimed the march was a "triumphalist parade to invade the heartland of our country."

Members of the protesting "residents committee" were joined by loyalists from Portadown and Ballymena. Spirit of Drumcree leader, Joel Patton, and Dunloy Orange Order representative, John Finlay, were also present.

Loyalists and the RUC clashed in Enniskillen. A RUC land rover was overturned and missiles were thrown. One plastic bullet was fired at the counter demonstrators. Outside the Co. Fermanagh village of Maguiresbridge, more clashes erupted between loyalists and the RUC.

Whiskey You're the Devil

Bushmills Irish Whiskey, which in the past has come under fire for its employment practices (vis a vis Catholics), is now coming under fire from Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP.) Ruby Cooling, a DUP mayor in North Down, has banned Bushmills from her parlour because the company has signed a sponsorship deal with the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA.) It is now expected that other DUP mayors will follow suit.

            Struggle in Ireland

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