SDLP transfer votes at risk over ‘IRA park’

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood.
SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood.

Unionists in Newry Mourne and Down are cautious about giving transfer votes to the SDLP because of the party’s track record on a playground named after an IRA gunman, it has been claimed.

McCreesh Park in Newry was first named after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.

In June 1976 McCreesh was one of three IRA men arrested with an Armalite used in the Kingsmills massacre – which took place five months earlier.

Colin Worton’s brother Kenneth was one of 10 Protestant civilians killed in the atrocity. Now he is asking whether unionists should give transfer votes to the SDLP.

Its councillors supported the name in 2001 and eight of them failed to attend another vote on the matter in 2015.

“We would just like to ask where does the SDLP stand now on this?” Mr Worton said.

“The previous SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said the name was to be changed but we are not sure what the position of the current leader [Colum Eastwood] is.

“In this area the SDLP are going to be relying on unionist transfer votes so we would like to know where they stand.

“People have been coming up to me in recent days and saying they will not be giving the SDLP any transfer votes.”

UUP councillor David Taylor said he too was unclear what the current SDLP leader’s position is.

The SDLP holds the balance of power in the new council.

The News Letter asked the SDLP how its councillors would vote when the matter arises again, probably in April.

A party spokesman said: “The SDLP do not support the naming of any public space after those involved in the violence of the past, whether from state or paramilitary organisations.

“All SDLP representatives are expected to reflect this policy.

“Peace and reconciliation is not simply the absence of violence, it is a fundamental shift in mind-set and approach to politics.”