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2 June 2005 Edition

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The Fifth Column

Spicer in the dock again?

COLONEL Tim Spicer OBE, the former commander of British soldiers sentenced to life for murdering an unarmed Belfast teenager 13 years ago, is threatening to sue the Irish Echo newspaper in the United States and a British MP because they've raised questions about the killing and his role in having the murderers freed.

Spicer was the commanding officer of Scots Guardsmen James Fisher and Mark Wright, who shot dead 18-year-old Peter McBride, but he wasn't at the scene of the shooting on 4 September 1992 in Belfast's Upper Meadow Street.

McBride was shot in the back moments after being searched by a sergeant attached to the same patrol as the soldiers who gunned him down. Spicer's Scots Guards were subsequently convicted of murder and sentenced to life but freed early after an intensive lobbying campaign by the Daily Mail and army generals, with Spicer himself in the vanguard. Spicer unashamedly defended his soldiers' actions. The convicted killers were then allowed to rejoin the British Army.

Since then, Spicer has been exposed in the media after being caught in various mercenary adventures such as smuggling arms to Sierra Leone in Africa (with the blessing of the James Bond brigade in MI6) and fighting independence fighters in Papua New Guinea.

Spicer's mercenary outfit, Aegis Defense Services, won a $293 million contract from the Pentagon last year for "security and reconstruction work" in Iraq. From being CO of the Scots Guards, Spicer has become CEO of Aegis's soldiers of fortune.

When the Echo ran a story at the start of May about Aegis being cited by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction in complaints that Spicer's mercenaries hadn't measured up to their contract with the US Department of Defence, Spicer's stiff upper lip quivered in rage — and especially when Sarah Teather the tiny MP for Brent East (and a woman at that!) said that "serious questions" still need answering in regard to Spicer and the killing of Peter McBride.

Spicer's solicitors fired off a legal salvo. "He had no role whatever in the death of Peter McBride. He was the commanding officer of the regiment in which two soldiers involved in Mr McBride's death were then serving. Thereafter he stood by his men and, in due course, was vindicated in so doing." Not quite.

Unless the Echo and Teather cave in, Spicer has threatened to see them in court. The Echo is standing by its story and taking legal advice, as is Teather,

FAIR sorry sight

THE MARKETHILL GLOBETROTTER, Willie Frazer, has dreamt up another ruse to clock up more air miles as head of the anti-republican group, Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR). Willie's launched a campaign to make Libya give a formal apology for supplying weapons used in IRA operations.

Although Libya has paid out £2.7 billion in compensation to victims of the Lockerbie bombing, it has never formally apologised for the attack or any other.

Willie and a few favoured travelling companions will no doubt have to personally deliver the petitions to 10 Downing Street, the White House and the Libyan Embassy in London to start with.

And there was startlingly swift success for Willie's inspiration. Within 24 hours of launching his campaign in the ultra-unionist News Letter, Willie claimed to have the instant backing of families of victims of 9/11 and of Palestinian suicide bombers.

"I think it's given people a bit of confidence," Willie beamed at his latest initiative. "Here's an issue that should have been addressed years ago." But Willie hadn't thought of it then either.

Be fair

FAIR is a great acronym but getting the name to fit the letters holds obvious pitfalls — obvious to anyone but Willie, that is.

How does a FAIR secretary decide who is an 'innocent relative' and who is a 'guilty relative'? Maybe the News Letter's brains behind FAIR could help us out there.

Booby prize

SIR ANTHONY O'REILLY'S Independent Newspapers Group has dispatched former Irish Examiner and Irish Mirror hack Karl Brophy to South Africa as the brains behind Cape Town's two-month-old tabloid scandal sheet, The Daily Voice.

The Voice has run some campaigning issues but back editions carry a strange diet of stories about spaceships, paranormal teenagers, and the image of Jesus appearing in a suburban toilet window. A procession of pilgrims is reported to have followed the appearance of the tale, which appeared under the headline, "Jesus lives in my toilet".

A reporter for the 'Media Weekly' supplement of London's Independent newspaper sat in on one of Brophy's editorial meetings after a massive storm had battered Cape Town.

"The executive editor, Karl Brophy, and the chief designer, Alan Murphy, each squeeze a pink rubber stress ball shaped like a breast. A nipple shoots out at a deformed angle as Murphy has the brainwave, 'What about tomorrow's page three? Get the photographer to shoot a girl in wellies and umbrella and nothing else!"

Karl Brophy also used to be a spin doctor for Fine Gael, so it's tempting to make some juvenile aside like 'Brophy's used to handling right ***s' but that would probably get us the sack — and a job on the Daily Voice.

Sunday Times praises Sinn Féin shock

THE normally vituperative 'Sue Denham' column in this week's Sunday Times had to swallow hard and acknowledge by default that republicans are not fascists.

Neo-Nazi British National Party leader Nick Griffin recently revealed that his bulging frame in the Westminster general election campaign wasn't down to his fine physique or too many chicken biryanis but the fact that he had to wear a bullet-proof vest. After his election failure, Nasty Nick has been on the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding circuit in the incredibly multi-ethnic New Orleans. The BNP führer cried that "Sinn Féin/IRA" have made "Irish white nationalists [ie Nazis] afraid to organise", thus making Ireland and America "the only white countries in the world" without a white supremacist party.

The Sunday Times scribe asks: "Does this mean that we have something to thank the Provos for?"

Mind you don't choke there, Sue.

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

Buy An Phoblacht magazine here

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