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!