Controversial votes such as the one recently taken by councillors in Newry to keep the name of a playpark in honour an IRA gunman could be a thing of the past.
UUP Justice spokesman Tom Elliott has moved to have such happenings banned after launching a Private Members Bill prohibiting the naming of public property after convicted terrorists.
In recent weeks there has been much outcry over the decision not to change the name of the Raymond McCreesh playpark in Newry. McCreesh, who died in the IRA hunger strike of 1981, had previously been found in possession of a weapon believed to have been used in the Kingsmills Massacre.
A majority of councillors voted to retain the name of the children’s playpark. Twenty councillors voted to retain the name, five voted against and one SDLP member abstained.
Twenty nationalist councillors, including two independents, voted to uphold the decision to grant the application for the renaming.
Now Mr Elliott has said he wants to rule out the possiblity of something similar happening in future.
“This is a Bill to make provision for the banning of naming publicly funded property after convicted terrorists,” the former UUP leader said. “My decision to pursue this comes in light of a number of recent unacceptable actions, including the renaming of a Play Park in Newry’s Patrick Street as the Raymond McCreesh Park, which has resulted in nothing further than a glorification of criminal activity and a deterioration in community relations.
“We need to create a more appropriate legal framework to ensure that this cannot be allowed to continue. The concerns of many victims as well as the wider community are clear and the current protests which are on-going across Northern Ireland are an indication of the strength of feeling from some quarters on issues such as this.”
Mr Elliott said maintaining good community relations is key.
“I believe the proposals I will be bringing forward would have the effect of improving community relations as well as increasing the sensitivity which is shown to victims and survivors of terrorism who are too often neglected,” he said.
“The Northern Ireland community has suffered much at the hands of terrorists during the last generation without having the glorification of those people imposed on our society, particularly to their victims.
“The desirability of good relations is a key component of the Northern Ireland Act and we must ensure that it is upheld by all. No Council or political Party should use a majority to force through changes which antagonise or disproportionately affect any section of the community.
“This is a clear example of the leadership which the Ulster Unionist Party is offering as we seek to create a shared future for all in Northern Ireland and bring an end to the current tensions which are clearly evident within some of our communities.”