Newry Mourne and Down District Council says it cannot rule out predictions that a Newry playground named after an IRA man will retain the name permanently if it is given into private hands.
The Newry playground is named after Raymond McCreesh, whom the Historical Enquiries Team said was arrested with a weapon used in the slaying of 10 Protestant workmen at Kingsmills in south Armagh, several months after the 1976 attack.
The Equality Commission had directed the council consider an analysis of public responses on the name and take a public vote on the matter.
But the unionist minority on the council was swept aside this week as the SDLP, supported by Sinn Fein, voted instead to follow the local authority’s recommendation on the matter - a review of the use of the land, in partnership with the local community.
SDLP group leader Councillor Gary Stokes said the decision would likely mean the park will retain the McCreesh name permanently. “Yes, but it will no longer be a public play park,” he said.
The News Letter therefore asked the council if it could rule out this conclusion to the process, however it could give no such guarantees.
“The purpose of the consultation is to identify which of the two play parks in this vicinity Newry, Mourne and Down District Council will retain and upgrade,” a spokesman responded.
Colin Worton, whose brother was killed at Kingsmills said he had no confidence that the process would see the name changed.
A legal challenge against the council by his mother Bea had a further hearing in Belfast High Court on Friday.
“I fully expect the park to retain the McCreesh name if it goes into private hands,” he said. “I will be very surprised if it does not work out that way.”
He added: “The judge wants to hear what the Equality Commission has to say. But the commission has somersaulted so much on this issue over the years that we have very little confidence in it.”
The Equality Commission said: “We anticipate the Council will provide us with an update on how the current position impacts on fulfilling our recommendations. The matter will then be considered by our Statutory Duty investigations Committee and the Commission and we will communicate the outcome of these considerations to the Council and publicly at that time.”
In yesterday’s News Letter SDLP councillor Michael Savage said the party’s approach to the matter “is influenced by a sincere desire to heal our divided society”.
But asked how a policy of naming public facilities after republican or loyalist paramilitaries could contribute to such healing, the party replied that it had helped broker the peace process “and remains committed to delivering a peaceful, reconciled society”.
TUV leader Jim Allister said: “If, as seems the intention of some, the park passes into ‘community’ or private hands but still attracts public funding through council grants, then, the obscenity and glorification of terrorism continues.”