A playpark named after an IRA hunger striker will continue to be called McCreesh Park following a vote by councillors in Newry and Mourne.
A motion recommending the retention of the controversial name was carried with the support of the council’s 14 Sinn Fein members, angering unionists who had appealed for the feelings of IRA victims to be taken into consideration.
Only one of the SDLP’s nine councillors attended the meeting, despite previous public assurances from senior MLAs in the party that they “made a mistake” in supporting the McCreesh name in the past.
Ukip councillor Henry Reilly said the decision “will be catastrophic in terms of community relations,” and that it will be referred to the Equality Commission.
“This vote will foster further corrosion in community relations and has re-traumatised the innocent victims of IRA terror.
“The callous and dismissive attitude of Sinn Fein politician’s towards the emotive and solemnly held views of the Protestant and victim communities is actually frightening and they have clearly failed to comply with their statutory duty under section 75 of the 98 Act, that demands that public authorities work to promote equality and good relations between people of different religions.”
Cllr O’Reilly added: “The Equality Commission has been very quick to bring the full force of its considerable resources against Ashers bakery over a cake and it will be interesting to see how the commission acts now on this pivotal human rights and equality issue. Promoting and glorifying terror and dividing communities is a lot worse than not baking a cake.”
Ulster Unionist councillor David Taylor was also furious at the decision recommended by the council’s Staff and Policy Committee - saying the Raymond McCreesh name was “a symbol of bigotry and hatred”.
He said: “The decision only serves to further compound the pain experienced by victims of republican violence who had already endured many years of anguish and pain as a consequence of losing their loved ones to the evil actions of republican terrorism.
“The SDLP were once again exposed. They were only represented by one member out of nine at the meeting. The absence of so many of their council grouping demonstrates their abject failure to honour a commitment given by their party leader Alasdair McDonnell to support the removal of Raymond McCreesh Park.
“Those representatives who supported the proposal to retain Raymond McCreesh Park should hang their heads in shame and search their consciences as a consequence of proceeding with a decision which justifies terrorist violence.”
A spokesman for the SDLP said the actions of its councillors in Newry would be the subject of an internal investigation.
He said: “The party is deeply disappointed that this issue was not resolved tonight. We will be investigating the circumstances surrounding the outcome.”