The son of a south Armagh great-great-grandmother has emphasised that it was the Equality Commission – and not her – that backed down this week in a battle over a playground named after an IRA man.
Bea Worton launched a judicial review in February after the Equality Commission accepted a decision by Newry Mourne and Down District Council to name a Newry playground after IRA man Raymond McCreesh.
Mrs Worton’s son Kenneth was killed by the IRA in the Kingsmills massacre in January 1976. Five months later Mr McCreesh was arrested along with a weapon used to murder her son.
After a court hearing this week it was widely reported that Mrs Worton had ended her legal challenge against the Equality Commission, which had accepted the decision by the council to retain the name of the park.
However, her other son, Colin, contacted the News Letter to say that in fact it was the Equality Commission that had ended the legal battle.
“The Equality Commission backed down and agreed with what my mother’s legal team was saying,” Mr Worton said. “It was not my mother who ended this legal challenge.
“Why would my mother have ended her challenge before the commission had carried out a U-turn?
“We believe that Raymond McCreesh was involved in the Kingsmills massacre of 10 people. The weapon he was arrested with was one of a number which had been used at Kingsmills.
“So to name a play park after him seems disgusting. If the Equality Commission had not backed down over this we would still be in court with them.
“Intelligent people were calling us up this week and asking why my mother had ended her fight?”
Up until Mrs Worton was granted leave for the judicial review in February the Equality Commission had taken the view that the council had followed all equality requirements in naming the playground after Mr McCreesh.
But in July the commission changed its mind and announced the council had not followed all its recommendations; it did not criticise the council’s use of the name but rather said that the authority had not been fully transparent in the naming process.
It took a further three months until this week the commission’s announcement was formally accepted in court. Mrs Worton then withdrew her judicial review against the commission.
“The Equality Commission has deeply hurt my mother,” her son told the News Letter. “This is an 89-year-old great-great-grandmother – the head of five generations in a family.
“One newspaper clipping said the commission was looking forward to taking my mother on – but then they backtracked.
“However, in our opinion their admission that they had been in the wrong was measly – it was only from the teeth out.”
An Equality Commission spokesman responded that after Mrs Worton’s judicial review was granted, it reviewed all the issues and announced on July 1 that the council “had not fully complied with the commission’s recommendation, specifically around transparency”.
He added: “The commission advised the council of this and recommended that, to ensure transparency, the council debate and vote on this issue should be conducted in public and properly recorded and that councillors should be provided with a qualitative analysis of the consultation responses prior to that debate and vote.”
Councillors will meet once again to vote on the name, this time on October 20 in Downpatrick. The party political representation on council is Sinn Fein 14; SDLP 13; DUP 4; UUP 3; Alliance 1; TUV 1; Independent 5.
Unionists believe that the stance taken by SDLP councillors will be critical in deciding the outcome.
Mrs Worton’s judicial review against Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has been adjourned until November 22.