A public suggestion to name a Newtownabbey play park after Lenny Murphy, the leader of an infamous loyalist murder gang, “was not and would never be endorsed by Newtownabbey council”, DUP MLA Paul Girvan said yesterday.
The suggestion to name the park after the Shankill Road UVF man was mentioned during a leisure committee meeting of Newtownabbey Borough Council on Monday night.
Hearing the news “shocked” Newtownabbey DUP councillor Billy Ball who attended Murphy’s murder scene minutes after he was gunned down by the IRA in 1982.
Alderman Ball said he knew nothing about the suggestion to name the park after Murphy until the meeting, and it “really shocked me”.
“When they told me later I was a bit shocked. It has pretty bad ramifications,” he said.
“I was on the scene a short time after he was murdered by the IRA and it was not a pretty sight.
“I was in the UDR and arrived at the scene to accompany the police. That is why I was taken aback when it came up.”
However, Mr Girvan said: “This was obviously suggested to show how ridiculous the naming of the play park in Newry was.
“It was never a serious suggestion.
“It would not have happened unlike what happened with the SDLP/Sinn Fein in Newry and Mourne council.
“It has created a debate but put the focus back to those who thought it was ok to name a park in the Newry area after a terrorist.
“It also indicates how far our community has moved on.
“We don’t want to idolise people who were involved in terrorism. It was not mentioned on our report to start off with. The only name mentioned was the Prince William play park.”
Last year a park in Newry was named after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh – a man linked to the 1976 Kingsmills massacre in which 10 Protestant workmen were killed.
In recent months a petition was started calling for a change of title for the Newry play park.
Councillor Girvan said only one recommendation was made at the meeting from New Mossley Community Group, who had carried out a small consultation, to name the park the Prince William Play Area, which was passed.
Members agreed that the council should carry out a consultation exercise in the estate to gauge public opinion regarding the proposed name change.
He said the consultation exercise will take place during the last two weeks of September and will involve questionnaires being circulated to residents who live in the vicinity of the play area, and a feedback form being placed on the council’s website.
The outcome of the consultation process will be reported to a future meeting of the leisure committee.