SDLP in Newry play park row with IRA victim

Colin Worton from Markethill
Colin Worton from Markethill

A MAN whose brother was murdered by the IRA in the Kingsmills massacre has hit out at the SDLP for helping name a children’s playground in Newry after one of the gunmen he believes was responsible for the killings.

On Monday night in Newry and Mourne District Council, 20 nationalist councillors, including two independents, voted to retain the name of Raymond McCreesh Play Park in Newry’s Patrick Street.

All SDLP councillors bar one voted with Sinn Fein to retain the name while five unionists voted against and SDLP councillor, Frank Feely, abstained.

Raymond McCreesh was convicted of a string of terror offences in 1977 and died on hunger strike in 1981. Last year, the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) said the weapon he was captured with had been used in the Kingsmills massacre, two months before his arrest. The weapon was also used in a string of other murders and attacks, HET said.

Colin Worton’s brother Kenneth was one of 10 Protestant civilians murdered by the IRA at Kingsmills in 1976. He says he has contacted SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley “to make my feelings known” ahead of the council playground vote.

“But he has not come back to me,” he said.

“I think the SDLP is embarrassed. Dominic did not want the Kingsmills families to walk along the last route of our loved ones recently because he said it would damage community relations.

“But what is the council’s decision to name this playground after a man involved in my brother’s murder going to do for community relations? It is totally sickening to my family and the Kingsmills families.”

Yesterday, Mr Bradley confirmed that Mr Worton had contacted him about the issue.

“Colin sent me a text message some time ago,” he said.

“I did not see it until some time afterwards. He made allegations about Raymond McCreesh which could not be substantiated. Yes, the weapon he was arrested with was used at Kingsmills but that is not proof he definitely committed murder.”

The MLA affirmed that McCreesh was convicted in 1977 of attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, possession of firearms with intent to endanger life and PIRA membership.

“But he was not convicted of the Kingsmills murders. That is the point.”

Responding to Mr Worton’s comments on the postponed Kingsmills march, the MLA said: “My understanding is that the Kingsmills relatives did not want to do that walk and were quite relieved not to do it. I am quite happy to meet Mr Worton.”

Asked about Mr Worton’s concerns that the playground name would impact on community relations, he said: “Well the text message he sent me [about Raymond McCreesh] was inflammatory.”

As for the actual impact on community relations, he added: “The park was named many years ago and has not impacted community relations. Mr Worton’s text message, if publicised, would be extremely damaging to community relations.”

However, Mr Worton yesterday disagreed.

“I called the man [McCreesh] a rat and I stand by it,” he said.

“I respect Dominic Bradley but on this occasion the SDLP have got it wrong.”

He supplied the text message in full, which said: “Can you confirm that the SDLP in Newry have voted with Sinn Fein to retain the name of a public park after IRA man Raymond McCreesh? If so I would like you to make known my utter disgust to SDLP councillors concerned as this rat was involved in my brother’s murder. He shouldn’t be honoured. Murder is wrong no matter who does it. Please make my views known. Thanks Colin Worton.”

Mr Worton added yesterday: “I still maintain Raymond McCreesh murdered my brother. He was arrested two months later with a weapon used at Kingsmills. But that gun did not fire itself. Until someone can tell me he wasn’t there, I believe he was. He was certainly not an upstanding decent citizen, so even aside from Kingsmills, the playground should not be named after him.”

Mr Worton also rejected Mr Bradley’s suggestion that the Kingsmills families did not want to walk along the last route of their loved ones earlier this year.

“I was all up for it, as were several members of my family, including my mother – but not in a triumphal way,” Mr Worton said.

“The reason we postponed the march was because the Parades Commission decided we could only have two relatives from each family. But it would not have been fair to select only two from our family circle.”

Another reason was that one of the relatives died just days before the march was due to take place, he said.

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