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18 March 2004 Edition

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Blair faces concerted lobbying on McBride case

Members of the McBride family travelled to Dublin last Thursday to coincide with the visit to the capital of British Prime Minister Tony Blair who met with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

In advance of the visit, the McBride family urged the Taoiseach's office to raise with the British PM the ongoing controversary surrounding the decision to retain in the British Army the two soldiers convicted of Peter McBride's 1992 murder.

During the inter-governmental talks, a letter was handed in calling on the British PM to "uphold international human rights standards and obligations and make clear that convicted murderers cannot remain members of the British Armed Forces".

"Tony Blair could have resolved this years ago," said Peter McBride Senior. "As Prime Minister he could call Geoff Hoon (Minister of Defence) into his office tomorrow morning and lay down the law. That he hasn't is absolutely shameful."

On Thursday afternoon the family briefed German Embassy officials on the background to the case. Guardsmen Wright and Fisher, who were convicted of Peter's murder, were based at Oxford Barracks in Muenster, Germany, before being posted to Iraq. The MoD has refused to confirm or deny reports that the two have been reposted to Germany.

"We have already raised this with the German Foreign and Defence Ministries and there is total disbelief that the British Government would retain murderers in its armed forces and anger that they would then be stationed on German soil," said a PFC spokesperson.

The MP for the Muenster area, Winni Nachtwei, has supported the call to have the pair dismissed from the army.

In June 2003 the Court of Appeal ruled that the reasons offered as 'exceptional' by an Army Board justifying retention of Wright and Fisher were not 'exceptional'.

On April 20/21, a third Judicial Review hearing will take place where solicitors for the McBride family will seek a ruling forcing the MoD to dismiss the Guardsmen.

• NIO Minister John Spellar MP was reminded of his appalling role in reinstating two murderers in the British Army when he opened a new by-pass at Toomebridge on the main Derry to Belfast road at lunchtime on Monday. Members of the Derry-based Pat Finucane Centre greeted him with placards as he emerged from a local restaurant where he had addressed local representatives.

Soon after, and half a mile away, the placards highlighting his involvement in the Peter McBride case again formed the backdrop as he cut the ribbon on the new bridge over the river Bann at Toome. Spellar sat on the Army Board which ruled that Guardsmen Wright and Fisher could remain in the British Army despite their conviction for the 1992 murder of Belfast teenager Peter McBride.

• Monday 15 March marked the fifth anniversary of the murder of human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson.

In the High Court on Monday morning, lawyers for the British Government announced that Judge Cory's reports into the killings of Rosemary Nelson, Pat Finucane, Robert Hamill and Billy Wright will finally be published by the end of March. The British may, however, publish the reports in 'redacted' or heavily edited format. Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice issues, Gerry Kelly, said that "the Cory report edited by British securocrats and then published, is not what was committed to at Weston Park".

"There, Tony Blair said that he would publish Cory and act upon his recommendations. This commitment, like so many others made by the British Government, has so far not been met.

"Sinn Féin will not accept this stalling and we will continue to support the families of those killed through the British collusion policy in their demand for the truth."

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