by Democrat reporter
Undeterred by the recent setback in the Belfast High Court on 17 April, when Justice Kerr ruled against a challenge by the family of murdered teenager Peter McBride to the army board’s decision to allow the two soldiers convicted of Peter’s murder to remain in the armed forces, campaigners have confirmed that the fight for justice continues.
On 13 May, Peter’s mother, Jean McBride, placed a full page advert in the Irish News to coincide with the arrival of the British head of state, who was visiting the six counties as part of her ‘Jubilee tour’.
The next international day of action has also been confirmed for 4 September, the 10th anniversary of Peter McBride’s murder. Details of events in London and elsewhere in Britain will be available nearer the date from the Connolly Association (tel. 020 75031273 or email email@example.com)
Jean McBride’s letter speaks for itself. We reprint here in full and call upon supporters of this paper to continue to raise the case with ministers, local politicians and to write to Queen Elizabeth II as colonel-in-chief of the Irish Guards, c/o Buckingham Palace, London.
For further information on the case see www.serve.com/pfc email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 07989 323418 (mobile)
Mother to mother: an open letter to the Queen
I am writing to you as a mother to a mother. Anniversaries are important to all of us. You are here in Belfast today as part of your own anniversary celebrations. This coming September there are two anniversaries which are very painful for me and my family.
On 4 September 1992, my son Peter left our home to visit his sister who lived nearby. It was a sunny carefree morning. Peter was 18 years of age. All children are unique but as the only boy in a family of four he occupied a special place in my heart. He never came back.
Within minutes he lay shot and dying at the back gate of his sister’s house. I had lost a son. Two young children had lost their father.
Two soldiers of the Scots Guards regiment, Mark Wright and James Fisher, were tried and convicted of his murder. The judge found that they were aware that Peter posed no danger to them and had no justification under law for their actions. The court found that the two soldiers had concocted a story and tried to blame the victim. They were sentenced to life imprisonment.
On 2 September 1998 the two soldiers were granted early release from prison. They rejoined their regiment and were transferred to the Irish Guards. According to their commanding officers they might well be promoted. Two army boards, each including one of your senior cabinet ministers, ruled that they could remain in your armed forces despite their murder convictions. They have remained members of your armed forces since the day and hour of the murder.
Hundreds of soldiers have been dismissed for taking drugs, getting involved in brawls, drunk driving and other crimes. According to your government and the Ministry of Defence the murder of my son was a less serious offence than any of the above. It was ‘exceptional’. Because he was Irish.
The regulations which allowed this to happen are called the ‘Queens Regulations’ Because of their convictions Wright and Fisher are considered unfit to drive a taxi, adopt a child or own a gun. Yet they are deemed fit to serve in the British army.
You are colonel-in-chief of the Scots Guards and the Irish Guards regiments. They form part of the Household division. Their role is to protect your palaces, your castles and, most importantly, your family. As you celebrate your anniversary and we await ours I will leave you with two questions, mother to mother.
Is it a source of pride to be colonel-in-chief of a regiment which harbours the convicted murderers of my son? Is it a source of pride to be head of state of the only democratic country in the world that rearms convicted murderers and welcomes them into the ranks of its armed forces?Jean McBride
,strong>The following press release was received shortly after the print edition of the June/July edition of the Irish Democrta went to press in late May,/strong>
McBride family welcome promises made by Secretary of State, but warn him: "we won't go away"
The family Peter McBride, the Belfast teenager murdered by Guardsmen Fisher and Wright in 1992, today (Tuesday 28 May) gave a cautious welcome to the promise made by Secretary of State John Reid to ask Tony Blair for a meeting.
During a lengthy meeting in Belfast today, described by Peter's mother Jean McBride as "Very candid and at times very heated" the Secretary of state promised to petition the Prime Minister for a meeting with the McBride family at the nearest opportunity.
Mrs McBride welcomed this as a step in the right direction, adding "I and my family have always been of the view that the decision about the future position in the army of the two men convicted of the murder of my son should properly be made by the government, and not the Ministry of Defence or the British Army."
But Mrs McBride warned "I made it clear to the Secretary of state that I'm not going to give up until I get justice for Peter."
Questioned about his refusal in his then capacity as Armed Forces Minister to meet the McBride family after he had met with campaigners for the Guardsmen in 1998, Dr Reid failed to give the family a satisfactory answer.
However the Secretary of State struck a conciliatory note during an unplanned press briefing after today's meeting when he acknowledged "the family's terrible sense of injustice."
In welcoming this new sentiment Mrs McBride said "After this meeting we are still a family with lots of questions that need answering. If Dr Reid fails to secure a meeting with the Prime Minister then he will have let my family down in the same way as his colleagues have. But it will not make us go away".
For further information contact the Pat Finucane Centre: tel 028 7126 8846, 07989 323418. For a full dossier on the Peter McBride case see: www.serve.com/pfc
Connolly Association, c/o RMT, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JD
Copyright © 2001 Connolly Publications Ltd