Further insult for McBride family
BY FERN LANE
Folllowing the outcry that met a British Army Board's decision to reinstate to their regiment Scots Guards James Fisher and Mark Wright, convicted of murdering Belfast nationalist Peter McBride, the Ministry of Defence has released a report on the case in an attempt to justify their continued employment. Originally, the Army Board, which included British armed forces minister John Spellar, claimed that there were ``exceptional circumstances'' informing its decision but refused to elaborate on what these might be, citing ``confidentiality''.
The MoD's report, which was sent to Peter McBride's mother Jean, says that Fisher and Wright were ``young and relatively inexperienced'' at the time of the killing. ``This was their first tour of duty in Northern Ireland and they had only been there for four months.'' The report goes on to say that in September 1992, the ``security situation'' in the New Lodge area of Belfast was particularly ``tense'', but does not elaborate on why so young and inexperienced soldiers were sent into the area in the first place.
Scandalously, despite acknowledging that Fisher and Wright lied at their trial and put forward ``a version which they both knew to be untrue'', the report nevertheless attempts to continue with the fallacy that the men fired on Peter McBride because they believed he was carrying a coffee-jar bomb. It asserts that ``the threat of coffee-jar bombs at the time of the offences was very real: soldiers had been maimed and on occasion killed by this weapon. The coffee-jar bomb was a device which was very easy to conceal until the moment of throwing''.
The report also goes on to say that Fisher and Wright are ``utterly loyal'' to the army, ``very highly'' regarded by their commanding officer and that their conduct whilst in custody had been ``exemplary'' - all factors which contributed to the board's decision.
Commenting on the report, Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly said: ``The British Army has revised history to allow two killers to remain in its ranks in a clearly calculated insult to the McBride family and the nationalist people. These two men, convicted of murder, will now be rearmed and could be sent throughout the world to repeat their actions, safe in the knowledge that their superiors believe that their actions made them `exemplary soldiers'.''
In Belfast last week, the high court gave Jean McBride leave to appeal against the board's decision. ``They have rewritten the rule book to allow these two to remain as soldiers,'' she said. ``You only have to look at the decision to know that they have bent and twisted the truth to suit themselves.''