An online petition supporting the naming of a Newry play park after an IRA hunger striker has been branded an insult to the victims of terrorism.
The ‘Say no renaming Raymond McCreesh Park’ website - which by yesterday had collected over 1,000 signatures - was set up by republicans opposed to a review of the council’s choice of name.
Newry council finalised its decision to name the playground after McCreesh in December 2012. However, the Equality Commission recently found the name failed to comply with the council’s Equality Scheme and called for the review of the decision.
Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson said the original naming decision was a “disgrace,” and called on Sinn Fein and the SDLP to “immediately state their support for the Equality Commission determination”.
“The decision to name a children’s play park after a convicted terrorist was a disgrace in the first instance, and the vote by Sinn Fein and SDLP councillors to retain the name merely added insult to injury, not just for the victims of IRA terrorism, but to all who wish to build a better Northern Ireland, based on the principle of sharing and shared space. The name of the park is provocative, backwards looking, and obviously deeply offensive and hurtful to all who abhor violence.”
Mr Nicholson added: “Now, republicans are disrespecting the recent ruling of the Equality Commission and the council’s own equality scheme by petitioning to retain the name and eulogising the criminality of a convicted terrorist.”
The petition website states: “We the people of Newry reject any such motion to rename our park. Please sign this petition to give your support in keeping the ‘Raymond McCreesh Park’ in respect and honour of this great man.”
At the 1916 uprising commemoration in Newry last weekend, one group carried a 30-foot long banner with the words ‘Raymond McCreesh our hero’.
In 1977 McCreesh was convicted of attempted murder and conspiracy to murder.