Victims campaigner Ann Travers has slammed the SDLP for failing to oppose the naming of a playground in Newry after convicted IRA man Raymond McCreesh.
The vote this week at Newry and Mourne District Council was pushed through by Sinn Fein with only one of the nine SDLP councillors eligible to vote turning up.
As criticism continued of the SDLP on Friday, it reiterated its policy against naming facilities after paramilitaries - and promised that “party officers” would urgently meet with the Newry and Mourne councillors. On Wednesday it promised that the party leader would meet them.
Also on Friday, Ann Travers said the SDLP should be “absolutely ashamed of themselves” for failing to oppose the McCreesh Park name.
“I would have thought that politicians from both sides should have learnt something during the Mary’s Law debate,” she said. “I personally feel very let down by the SDLP, at one time it would have been a party I looked up to.”
In 2013 Ann successfully campaigned to have the SDLP allow “Ann’s Law” to pass at Stormont; it now bars anyone with a serious conviction from being a special political adviser (SPAD) at Stormont.
Her campaign began after a woman was appointed as a Sinn Féin special advisor who had also been convicted of involvement in the IRA murder of Ann’s sister, Mary, in 1984.
Ian Johnston, whose brother Alan was shot dead by the IRA in Kilkeel 27 years ago tomorrow, also hit out.
“SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said naming a playground after McCreesh was wrong and that they were going to change it - but then when it came to the vote they didn’t turn up,” he said. “Unionists speaking to me say they will no longer give the SDLP any transfer votes.”
An SDLP spokesman responded that their policy was clear - “we do not support the naming of any public space after those involved in paramilitary or state violence in the past and we will vote against any such proposal”.
The SDLP councillor who abstained in this week’s vote did so as he believed more time was needed to consider legal advice, the spokesman said; the issue was “forced to a vote”.
“The councillors involved will be meeting party officers within the next 48 hours to discuss the circumstances of the council meeting.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein is facing criticism for opposing the naming of a Dublin fly-over after murdered journalist Veronica Guerin - on the grounds that it would create “a hierarchy of victims”.
Sinn Fein responded that all parties on Dublin City Council agreed that it would be too “political” to start naming bridges.