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11 September 2003 Edition

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Body to decide future of McBrides killers

THE NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE (NIO) is understood to be drawing up a proposal for an independent body to be created to decide on the future of Scots Guards James Fisher and Mark Wright.

Fisher and Wright were convicted of killing unarmed Nationalist teenager Peter McBride in the New Lodge Road area of North Belfast in 1992.

It is believed that the proposals are being drawn up by a senior civil servant attached to the office of NIO minister Jane Kennedy and that the civil servant was present at a meeting between Human Rights Minister John Spellar and the McBride family last month and has also held meetings with Sinn Féin and the SDLP.

The proposal, if approved by British Secretary of State Paul Murphy, will be forwarded to British Prime Minister Tony Blair who will make the ultimate decision on whether the commission will be set up.

A source within the NIO confirmed that the proposal was being discussed at the highest level: "if an independent commission was established it would allow all parties to bring closure on the issue''.

The source pointed out that any recommendation from the NIO would come up against stiff opposition from the Ministry of Defence, which has resisted repeated calls for Fisher and Wright to be dismissed from the British army.

"Ultimately it will be Tony Blair who decides on whether or not the body will be set up''.

The proposal for an independent body to be set up is nothing new. In July, independent assessor of military complaints, Jim McDonald, urged the British army to initiate a final appeals panel, drawn from people from outside the military system.

"The British army's credibility will continue to be damaged until the issue of Fisher and Wright is settled'' said McDonald.

MEANWHILE, the Justice for Peter McBride Campaign has announced that Kelly McBride, sister of the murdered Belfast teenager, will be standing as a candidate in this month's parliamentary by-election in the Brent East constituency in London and that volunteers are urgently required to help with canvassing. Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly has travelled to London and will be lending his support to the campaign over the coming weekend.

Those interested in helping out are asked to join with other campaigners on Saturday 13 September at Kilburn Square from 1pm onwards. Leaflets can be picked up at Kilburn Square throughout the afternoon.

Queries can be answered by calling 07966 707137 and donations are welcome and can be made by contacting [email protected]

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