The Guardian September 13, 2000


British Consulate bunkers down

A picket of Australia Aid for Ireland (AAI) members and supporters 
outside the British Consulate in Sydney on 6 September resulted in the 
closure of the Consulate offices. The doors were locked when an AAI 
delegation attempted to deliver a letter for the Prime Minister Tony Blair. 
The letter, calling for justice in the case of the murder of a young Irish 
man, was signed by eight local MPs and a number of prominent trade union 
leaders and the Assistant State Secretary of the Labor Party.

In February 1995, two British soldiers, Mark Wright and Jim Fisher from the 
Scots Guards, were convicted of the willful murder of an 18-year-old 
Belfast father of two, Peter McBride, in September 1992.

The two were convicted by Lord Chief Justice Kelly and sentenced to life in 
prison. Their final appeal against the sentence was rejected by the House 
of Lords.

However, just three years after their conviction they were not only 
released but reinstated to the British Army and served in Kosovo. Their 
release was not part of the Good Friday Agreement but followed a public 
campaign headed by the arch-conservative Daily Mail.

Last year, on September 6, Judge Kerr recommended the dismissal of Wright 
and Fisher from the British Army. Since then, nothing has happened.

"Why is it that two convicted murderers continue to serve in the British 
Army when others convicted of football hooliganism and drug abuse have been 
dismissed?", the letter asked the British Prime Minister.

"Is the cold-blooded murder of a young Irishman considered less of a crime 
than those?"

The letter called on the PM to intervene immediately "to ensure at least 
some form of justice for the family of Peter McBride".

When the delegation, led by AAI President Paddy Gorman, attempted to take 
the letter up to the Consular offices, in the Gateway building near 
Circular Quay (16th floor), they were met by a number of security men who 
attempted to prevent entry to the building.

Asserting their right to deliver the letter, the AAI delegation was 
followed into the lifts by security officers only to find that the entire 
floor containing the British Consulate had been isolated. The Consul had 
closed to avoid meeting the protesters who refused to leave until the 
letter was delivered.

The security forces called the police threatening the protesters with 
arrest. The police duly arrived and after a consultation with AAI, brokered 
a compromise in which the Vice-Consul, Amanda McDowell, would receive the 
letter in the ground floor lobby of the building.

As Paddy took the letter for PM Blair from his pocket, the police 
intervened and insisted on his personally opening the envelope "for 
security reasons" before handing over the letter!

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