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News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)
December 24, 2004
12/24/04 – Jean McBride Pleads Over Spicer Contract
Monthly Table of Contents 12/04
AW 12/24/04 Mother Pleads To Pentagon Over Spicer Contract
FT 12/24/04 Detectives Play Down Claims Of IRA Role In Robbery
TW 12/23/04 Irish-American Quintet Cherish The Ladies –AO
Irish-American Quintet Cherish The Ladies has been recording and
performing traditional Celtic music for 16 years now. But their latest CD
is their first Christmas album. The World's Ken Bader has today's Global
Hit. (Go to the following link and then down to the bottom of the page to
click a listen button to hear this 6 minute feature.)
Mother Pleads To Pentagon Over Spicer Contract
by Tom Griffin
The mother of a man murdered by two British soldiers in Belfast has asked
the U.S. Department of Defense to cancel a $293 million Iraq security
contract awarded to their commanding officer.
Irish human rights group the Pat Finucane Center has filed a detailed
submission on behalf of Jean McBride challenging the Pentagon's deal with
Aegis Defense Services and its controversial Chief Executive Lt. Col. Tim
Spicer. Spicer's record and links in the mercenary world will also be
raised next month, when Democratic senators hold hearings on contract
abuses in Iraq.
The moves mark the latest phase in a battle which began earlier this year
when Irish-Americans launched a campaign against the deal, arguing that
Spicer had condoned the killing of unarmed teenager Peter McBride by
Guardsmen Mark Wright and James Fisher, who were subsequently convicted
Senators John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd, and
Charles Schumer wrote to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld calling for an
investigation. Campaigners believe that a reply issued last month by the
head of the U.S. Army Contracting Agency, Sandra Sieber, leaves them with
an opening to challenge the Aegis contract.
"It is significant that the British Ministry of Defense was apprised of
our intention to award the contract to Aegis, and did not object to or
advise against the action," Ms. Sieber said in her letter to the five
"The contracting officer was not aware of the allegations subsequently
lodged against Mr. Spicer in the press at the time of the contract award.
However, our post-award review of the facts surrounding these matters did
not establish that Mr. Spicer's advocacy on behalf of his former soldiers
had any bearing on his or Aegis' record of integrity or business ethics.
I understand that others besides Mr. Spicer, including members of the
British government, also advocated for the soldiers' release from prison.
The British government reviewed the case and found in favor of the
soldiers' release. Recently, a British Army review board reinstated the
soldiers into the British Army."
In its submission, the Pat Finucane Center points to a number of
inaccuracies in this account.
"The allegation against Mr. Spicer is not that he advocated for the
soldiers' release from prison," the PFC document states. "The issue is
that he opposed their arrest and opposed their being charged with any
offense whatsoever. In a sworn affidavit and in his autobiography, Spicer
stated, 'They should never have been charged with murder, let alone
convicted of it.' In his sworn affidavit and again in his autobiography,
Spicer has sought to portray an entirely fictitious and untruthful
version of the events preceding, during, and following the actual murder.
It is essential to point out that the version of events as described by
Spicer, which constituted the defense offered by the soldiers, has been
totally rejected by the courts and described as a 'concoction of lies' by
the trial judge. The original judgment has been upheld in subsequent
The submission also points out that Guardsmen Wright and Fisher were not
in fact reinstated in the British Army. Instead, contrary to Queen's
Regulations, they were never discharged after their convictions.
Following their release, a decision to retain the two soldiers was made
by an Army Board including General Sir Roger Wheeler, who is now an
advisor to Aegis Defense Services. The Belfast High Court subsequently
ruled this decision was unlawful.
"We are extremely concerned that your review has been misled and provided
with erroneous information as to the current status of this case," the
submission continues. "Was this provided directly by the British Ministry
of Defense or by any other British government department? If so, we are
also anxious to know when this occurred as this information could be
relevant to ongoing legal action."
The British government has distanced itself from the Aegis contract in
statements by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the Department of Trade
Spicer is best-remembered in Britain for his role in the Arms to Africa
affair in 1998, when his former company Sandline International illegally
supplied weapons to Sierra Leone.
However, it appears he is far from being persona non grata in official
circles. Earlier this month, he was a key speaker at a conference held at
Oxford University and sponsored by the Royal United Services Institute
devoted to the role of private military companies.
This attempt to burnish the image of the mercenary trade was somewhat
undermined days earlier by new revelations about the ongoing plight of
Spicer's erstwhile colleague in Sandline, Simon Mann, currently in jail
in Zimbabwe following a failed attempt to overthrow the government of
Equatorial Guinea in March.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was forced to admit in the House of Commons
that the British government had advance information of the coup plot.
"I considered the case and agreed that the FCO should approach an
individual formerly connected with a British private military company,
mentioned in the report [of the impending coup], both to attempt to test
the veracity of the report, and to make clear that the FCO was firmly
opposed to any unconstitutional action such as coups d'etat," Straw said.
"A senior Foreign Office official did so within days. The individual
concerned claimed no knowledge of the plans."
The Sunday Times and Observer newspapers have claimed that the individual
approached by the Foreign Office was none other than Tim Spicer.
There have also been reports in the South African press that Spicer has
been accused of involvement in the coup by the government of Equatorial
The controversy has prompted those concerned about the role of Western
mercenaries in Africa to make common cause with campaigners at the Pat
Finucane Center and the Irish National Caucus (INC) in Washington.
Earlier this year, Botswana-based German journalist Dr. Alexander Von
Paleske contacted the head of the INC, Fr. Sean McManus with details
about Spicer's record.
Dr. Paleske believes that the Aegis contract may be vulnerable because of
Spicer's links with British businessman Tony Buckingham, a key figure at
Buckingham is alleged to have been the only British businessman in a 1995
delegation to Iraq to discuss oil deals with Saddam Hussein. Members of
the delegation stayed at the al-Rasheed Hotel, where the floor was
decorated with a picture of the elder George Bush, intended as a
calculated insult to the former U.S. president.
Ironically, Buckingham's company Heritage Oil has co-sponsored training
for Iraqi oil ministry officials in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's
Earlier this month, the company announced it had signed a joint venture
agreement in Iraqi Kurdistan, with a plan to produce over 50,000 barrels
of oil a day.
Perhaps the greatest concerns center on Sanjivan Ruprah, former chief
executive of Branch Energy, a company founded by Buckingham.
Ruprah, who was arrested in 2002 in Belgium, is a close associate of
Viktor Bout, a Russian businessman accused of supplying weapons to the
Taliban and al-Qaeda.
"Spicer's activities in Sierra Leone [the arms to Africa affair] are well
documented, as well as the involvement in Papua New Guinea. To give [a
contract to] this man, Spicer, whose gang boss had contacts to Saddam
Hussein and links to weapons suppliers to al-Qaeda, and who was
shamefully trying to protect British soldiers who killed an innocent
Irish man, is an absolute scandal," Dr. Paleske said.
Fr. McManus intends to raise Spicer's record in January, when Senate
Democrats plan hearings on contract abuses in Iraq. "I have amassed a ton
of information on this issue," Fr. McManus said. "This provides us with
an excellent opportunity to hold Spicer accountable for his military unit
assassinating young Peter Mc Bride in Northern Ireland in 1992. We must
seize the moment and not be found wanting. We owe it to the McBride
Detectives Play Down Claims Of IRA Role In Robbery
By Jimmy Burns, Social Affairs Correspondent
Published: December 24 2004 02:00 Last updated: December 24 2004 02:00
Police investigating a £22m bank robbery in Northern Ireland distanced
themselves yesterday from the suggestion it may have been organised by
With the paramilitary organisation taking the unusual step of denying
involvement, senior police sources separately played down an unofficial
report that police communications intercepts had connected the robbery
with a member of the IRA's executive.
The IRA's denial was made in a statement yesterday to the Press
Association by an unidentified senior source. "We are dismissing any
suggestion or allegation that we were involved," the source said.
Separately, the Financial Times learnt from senior police sources that an
IRA link to the robbery, on Monday, was raised initially as a possibility
but was not supported forensically or by credible secret intelligence
Police believe the robbery could have been carried out by one of several
crime groups operating on both sides of the Irish border, some but not
all of which, have paramilitary connections. Yesterday, senior police
officers were still appealing for witnesses to come forward.
According to the police, a gang of about 20 individuals were behind the
robbery which began with two bank employees being separately kidnapped on
Sunday night in front of their families in Belfast. The employees were
then ordered to go to work on Monday after being warned members of their
family would be killed if they did not act normally.
On Monday night the employees were forced by members of the gang to hand
over substantial sums of cash, most of it contained in the underground
vaults of the headquarters of Northern Bank, near Belfast City Hall. Cash
was bundled into containers, stacked into wire cages and taken out in
separate runs to a white van which drove off while surrounding streets
were packed with Christmas shoppers. The van's number plate was
Superintendent Andy Sproule, who is heading a team of more than 40
detectives, described the raid as a "carefully planned operation by
professional criminals who obviously had done their homework".
At least £13m of the stolen cash was made up of new Northern Ireland
pound notes with identified serial numbers.
Police believe that the criminals will run a high risk of being
discovered if they try to use or 'launder' the notes.
UK government officials remain sceptical about the IRA being directly
involved in a high-profile robbery at a time when Sinn Féin, its
political arm, is engaged in attempts to join a power-sharing executive
in Northern Ireland and the IRA has hinted it may be prepared to declare
its 'war' as over.
Although the IRA, because of its nine-year ceasefire, has no large
military campaign to finance as it did in the 1980s, its main source of
income is thought to be in oil derivative smuggling and counterfeit
Monthly Table of Contents 12/04