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16 May 2002 Edition

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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 'Queen's 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


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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