Equality Commission chief meeting council on McCreesh Park name

Dr Michael Wardlow of the Equality Commission
Dr Michael Wardlow of the Equality Commission

Equality Commission chief Michael Wardlow will meet Newry Mourne and Down District councillors today about a playground named after IRA man Raymond McCreesh.

The commission had affirmed the name but carried out a U-turn in July when challenged with a judicial review by IRA victim Bea Worton.

Her son was killed in the Kingsmills massacre in 1976 and McCreesh was arrested a few months later with a weapon used in the attack.

The commission now says the naming of the park was not transparent and must be reviewed followed by a fresh vote.

Chief commissioner Dr Wardlow and chief executive Dr Evelyn Collins will make a presentation to councillors on Thursday evening. The News Letter reported on Saturday that councillors will vote today on the name; however, the council has asked for clarification that the vote will most likely focus solely on agreeing a way forward.

Council officials have proposed a consultant review public submissions on the name and create an options paper, with a final vote expected around January.

TUV councillor Henry Reilly said: “The SDLP position on the final vote will be critical to the final outcome.”

Sinn Fein holds 14 seats; SDLP 13; DUP 4; UUP 3; Alliance 1; TUV 1; Independents 5.

SDLP councillor Michael Carr rejected suggestions that his party was divided.

“No, I would say the SDLP will be totally consistent,” he said. “There is a strong feeling that it [the name] was wrong.

“There is a recognition this could not happen again but the question now is what can we do with a legacy decision.”

Former Sinn Fein councillor, now independent, Davy Hyland said: “My view is that the commission won’t really be happy until the name is changed.”

Mrs Worton also has an outstanding judicial review against the council, which is adjourned until November 22.

The commission previously supported action in which Belfast bakery Ashers was found to have discriminated by refusing to supply a cake with a gay marriage slogan. On Monday the Court of Appeal will make a judgment on the bakery’s appeal.