25 September 2003 Edition

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McBride breaks wall of silence in London

BY FERN LANE

Tony Blair received a sharp political blow last Thursday, as a huge Labour majority in the previous safe seat of Brent East in north London was overturned, with the Liberal Democrat candidate securing a stunning a victory for her party. It was the first by-election defeat Labour has suffered for 15 years. Despite various Labour MPs suggesting the defeat can be explained away as public dissatisfaction with the apparent slow pace of reform of public services, it may well be the first tangible sign of the political price Tony Blair will have to pay for being part of the attack on and occupation of Iraq.

One of the night's other significant results was that of Kelly McBride, who stood in the constituency as part of the ongoing campaign for justice for her brother Peter, shot dead by Scots Guards in Belfast in 1992. Kelly McBride secured a promise from the winner, Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather, that she would raise the matter in the British parliament. This week, it was revealed that one of Peter's killers, James Fisher, was promoted even as the Army Board was supposedly considering the fate of the two guardsmen.

Following the Brent East by-election, Kelly McBride, her family and supporters hailed her election campaign as a major step towards justice for her family.

The Pat Finucane Centre said that "Kelly secured enough votes to come out as one of the strongest candidates outside those supported by major political parties, coming eighth out of 16 candidates.

"This was achieved without the help of a professional party machine to knock on doors and put up posters, or any of the resources available to candidates attached to the main political parties."

Afterwards, Kelly said: "We got 189 votes, but we have said all along that this election campaign was never about votes, it was about highlighting what happened to my brother Peter and what is still happening to my family. Since the election campaign began, we have handed out over 60,000 leaflets explaining our case in an area where people had never been told the true facts of the case.

"People here have been very supportive of our campaign, and many, including the other candidates, have been disgusted when told for the first time how our family has been treated. We have at last broken through the wall of silence erected around our campaign and brought our message to the doorsteps of those who have taken all the disgraceful decisions in this case.

"We won what we set out to win in this election - we have brought the issue of my brother's murder and the continued employment by the government of his murderers, to the heart of the British political system.

"I would like to thank all of the people who helped me to do that. Without the help of the many dedicated volunteers who helped us in London, we could not have achieved what we did over the past few weeks.

"I would also like to congratulate the successful candidate in this election, and I hope that she represents her new constituents well. I would also like to thank her for her support for my campaign."


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