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3 September 1998 Edition

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Killer Guards freed

by Sean O'Tuama

At a press conference in West Belfast on Wednesday the family of Peter McBride slammed the release earlier that morning of the two Scots Guards who killed him.

The Guards, James Wright and Mark Fisher, were convicted of the September 1992 murder of the north Belfast teenager who they shot in the back.

SF Assembly member Gerry Kelly said the decision to release the Guards was ``evidence of the arrogant, colonial mentality which has constantly treated Irish people as second class. The British government ignored the structures set up under the Good Friday document, including the Prisoner Commission, and followed the pattern of Thain and Clegg by unilaterally releasing these two British soldiers.''

Peter's family were informed of the releases at 8.15am, fifteen minutes after the killers had been freed.

Billy McBride, Peter's uncle, confirmed that at a meeting between themselves, the Pat Finucane Centre and Mo Mowlam in July she assured them that the Guards ``would not be among the first wave of prisoner releases'' under the Good Friday document. Billy said, ``she hasn't kept her promise. She lied.'' He added that the family were ``totally disgusted'' at the decision particularly as the releases come in the week of the anniversary of Peter's killing. He said the timing showed ``a total disregard to the family's feelings'' and indicated that ``we've no rights in this country.'' The releases were ``a kick in the teeth to the family and the wider community.''

Kelly, Peter's sister, clearly distraught, said the release of the guards made it seem as if ``Peter's life meant nothing.''

Billy announced that the Relatives for Justice (RFJ) group would be raising the case with President Clinton when they meet him today (Thursday) as this case illustrated how the ``victims of state violence get no consideration whatsoever.''

RFJ spokesperson Eilish McCabe expressed anger at the releases and condemned Mowlam for breaking her word to the McBride family ``Are the McBride family in some way not deserving of the sensitivity that she talked about in relation to victims families? Are they to be forgotten like so many families who have lost loved ones at the hands of the state?'' Ms McCabe went on to urge Mowlam to facilitate a meeting between Peter's family and President Clinton during his visit to the Six Counties.

Billy McBride confirmed that the family would still be pushing for the Guards to be dismissed from the British Army and if they are posted to Germany, as has been suggested, the family will picket the base ``to inform the locals that they have killers in their midst.''

Peter McBride, the father of the murdered teenager, called on the Guards to donate to the Northern Ireland Hospice the six years of army back pay they are now due. He also stated that the family would be seeking legal advice on what course of action was still open to them.

Jean McBride, Peter's mother, was ``devastated'' by the news of the releases and was unable to attend the press conference or make any direct comment.
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