Ending impunity – Ireland

The family of Peter McBride are set to widen their campaign for the dismissal of his killers from the British Army.

They are seeking a change in the law to close the loophole which allowed Scots Guardsmen Mark Wright and James Fisher to remain with their regiment in spite of a murder conviction.

An early step came last week when Fianna Fail TD Cecilia Keaveney raised the issue with the Irish Government and received a sympathetic response from Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern:

Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs   his views on the calls (details supplied) to have a change in legislation in Britain requiring the automatic dismissal of any member of the British armed forces found guilty in a court of law of a serious human rights violation, whether murder, rape or torture; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern):    This call by members of the McBride family for a change in British legislation to require the automatic dismissal of a member of the British armed forces found guilty of a serious human rights violation is the latest effort in their campaign to ensure the dismissal of British army personnel James Fisher and Mark Wright. In 1995, Scots Guardsmen Fisher and Wright were convicted of the 1992 murder of Mr. Peter McBride, an unarmed Catholic teenager who was killed by two shots in the back. The two men were released after serving six years in prison and re-admitted to the British army despite their murder convictions. Since then, Mr. McBride’s family has been seeking their dismissal from the army but several appeals of army board decisions to retain them have been unsuccessful.

Legislation is in place that would allow for the dismissal of Mr. Fisher and Mr. Wright. The Court of Appeal in Belfast gave a majority ruling on 13 June 2003 that there were “no exceptional circumstances” justifying the retention of the men. Mrs. McBride took further judicial review proceedings in April 2004 focusing on the refusal of the British armed forces minister to review the retention of the two soldiers in light of the appeals court’s decision. Regrettably, Belfast High Court ruled yesterday that the decision to retain the soldiers remained effective even though the majority of judges found that there was no basis for it.

As the family members of Mr. McBride make clear, the retention of the men in the British army in this context raises questions about the expected standards of behaviour for members of the British army. I fully support their call for these standards to be examined. While the enactment of legislation is a matter for the British Government and Parliament at Westminster, it certainly would be one way of undertaking that exercise and making changes where these were deemed necessary. The Government’s objection to the continued retention of Mr. Fisher and Mr. Wright has been repeatedly raised with the British side, including through the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, BIIGC. We have also continued to raise the case through the offices of the Secretariat to the BIIGC. (Parliamentary Debates – Dail Eireann, 30 June 2005)







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