Unionists and victims have been shocked to hear that Newry and Mourne District Council received £3.7m to tackle sectarianism whilst naming a playground after a convicted terrorist.
The Patrick Street park in Newry was first named after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh in 2001, a decision which caused protracted internal debate but which was finalised by the council [now Newry, Mourne and Down District Council] in 2012.
However, Monday’s News Letter revealed that in the midst of the internal debate, £3.7m of EU money was granted to the council in 2010 to “increase community cohesion”, reduce “manifestations of sectarianism” and “embed good relations”.
The park was named after McCreesh - one of three IRA men arrested three months after the Kingsmills massacre with an Armalite which had been used in the 1976 attack.
The atrocity saw 10 Protestant civilians killed including Kenneth Worton.
On Monday his brother Colin said he was “really shocked” at the news.
“Especially if they have got it to tackle sectarianism,” he said.
“The name, McCreesh Park, would certainly be sectarian to us. If they keep the name of the park up it is going against everything this money was given for.
“The council really has a brass neck to keep the name up. It could not suit any unionists from the community to use the park.”
Mr Worton’s 88-year-old mother Bea has begun a judicial review against the Equality Commission and the council for allowing the name to remain.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council said the Special EU Projects Body (SEUPB) awarded four councils in the southern area £5.5m to deliver Phase 2 of the PEACE III Programme.
The key themes were ‘Challenge of Change, Engaging in Good Relations, Investing in Our Future, Future Foundations and a Strategic Grants Programme’.
SEUPB said the McCreesh park “was not in receipt of PEACE funding”.
UUP councillor David Taylor said: “There can be no doubt that the council faces many challenges in overcoming sectarianism.
“The Raymond McCreesh Park manifests the problem that the council does have in this area.
“It has a major impact on people’s confidence levels about whether they are serious in dealing with these issues.”
UUP MLA Danny Kennedy said: “Given the track record of Newry and Mourne District Council, I think people will be very interested in the level of the grants and what it has been used for and whether it has been fairly administered.”
Further details are at www.southernpartnership.com.