Welcome to the next instalment of British women Olympic champions. Dame Mary Peters was born in Lancashire but moved to Northern Ireland at a very young age, the place that she was to become most associated with.
Mary represented Northern Ireland at every Commonwealth Games between 1958 and 1974, where she won 2 gold medals for the pentathlon, plus a gold and silver medal for the shot put. But it was representing Great Britain in Munich 1972 that she brought home gold.
It was even suggested that at the time that, with the troubles at their worst, Mary Peters’ unexpected 1972 Olympic pentathlon victory brought a temporary calmness to Northern Ireland with rival factions celebrating together the Province’s greatest ever sporting success.
Mary was appointed CBE in 1990, having been appointed MBE in 1972 and in 2000 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She has also been honoured in Northern Ireland, where the premier athletics track, on the outskirts of Belfast, is called the Mary Peters Track. In April 2009, it was announced that she will become the next Lord Lieutenant of the City of Belfast.
David Cameron has made the knee-jerk statement that the European Court of Human Rights should not make judgements on cases that have been dealt with by the courts in Britain. He also asked for a better filtering system for cases that are tried in the court.
Cameron’s comments come after last weeks decision by the ECHR to stop the extradition of Abu Qatada to Jordan on the grounds that evidence at his trial may have been obtained through torture. There have also been numerous mutterings from within the Tory party about the UK’s current relationship with the ECHR and many extraordinarily misinformed articles in the right-wing press.
Now the UK government is in a position to do something about their perceived problem as they have taken over the six monthly chairmanship of the Council of Europe, which oversees the ECHR.
This seems like another example of Cameron’s populist tendencies coming through. The idea that the ECHR should not look at cases that have already been dealt with in Britain is absurd beyond belief. That is exactly what the court is designed to do and has done effectively in the past. We should not forget that it was the ECHR who ruled that the highly controversial interrogation methods used during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the seventies were in breach of the Convention on Human Rights after the UK had dismissed the case.
I would also advise Mr Cameron to stop reading the Daily Mail and the Telegraph so much, as their anti-European bent leads to a great deal of misinformation being published in their pages. Both papers made the extraordinary and unfounded claim that the British government is defeated in three out of every four cases brought against it in the ECHR. Given the fact that, as published by the ECHR which you can read here, 84% of all cases brought to the court are deemed inadmissible, that 75% claimed by the Mail and Telegraph is probably more like 2%.
The fact is that if Abu Qatada would have been tried using evidence obtained through torture then we are obligated not to send him to Jordan. We can’t have a set of rules, but ignore it if the person in question is really awful. That is not how free and open democracies work