SINN Fein and the SDLP have voted to retain the title of a Newry playground named after an IRA gunman who was caught with a weapon used in the Kingsmills massacre.
The council voted to name the Patrick Street playground after IRA man Raymond McCreesh in 2001 – despite the fact that 16 per cent of residents opposed the change in a survey. Unionists appealed to the Equality Commission which called for an equality impact assessment in 2008.
But a council sub-committee finally decided this week that naming the park after McCreesh complies with their legal requirement to “promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different religious belief and political opinion”.
UKIP councillor Henry Reilly said: “Raymond McCreesh created so much fear in the unionist community. When he was caught he was setting up an ambush for police and Army with a rifle which was used in the Kingsmills massacre.
“This weapon was used to shoot Protestant farmer Sammy Rodgers who Raymond McCreesh delivered milk to as a milkman. Our equality impact assessment in Newry and Mourne means that unionists have to live with the council formally honouring a convicted terrorist who has been officially linked to the Kingsmills massacre.”
In 1977 McCreesh was convicted of attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, possession of firearms with intent to endanger life and PIRA membership. He died on hunger strike in 1981. Last year the PSNI Historical Enquiries Team linked him, along with two others, to a string of IRA murders committed with the Armalite he was caught with, including the Kingsmills massacre in 1976.
In that attack 10 Protestant workmen were stopped on their way home from work and gunned down. An eleventh man survived.
The Armalite McCreesh was arrested with was also linked by HET to:
l the murders of RUC Constable David McNeice and rifleman Michael Gibson (Royal Jackets) at an ambush at Meigh in 1974;
l the attempted murder of Protestant farmer Samuel Rodgers at Camlough in 1975;
l the attack on a military helicopter and attempted murder of security force personnel at Carrickbroad, Forkhill, in 1976;
l the attempted murder of security force personnel at Mountain House, Belleek, Newry, in 1976, where the Armalite was recovered.
A Sinn Fein spokesman said last night: “Clearly the representatives of Newry were expressing the wishes of the vast majority of people who elect them to the council. The name of the park should not be changed.”
Newry and Mourne District Council said the decision was taken by a sub-committee and it could not comment until the full council makes a decision on Monday, December 3. The SDLP had not commented last night.