Council to vote on ‘IRA playground’

The Patrick St playground in Newry is controversially named after IRA man Raymond McCreesh
The Patrick St playground in Newry is controversially named after IRA man Raymond McCreesh

A vote is to take place tonight in Newry which unionists fear could result in a council playground being permanently named after an IRA man - a move they believe will fail to fulfil directions from the Equality Commission.

The Newry playground was 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 has directed that Newry Mourne and Down District councillors be provided with an analysis of public consultation responses on the McCreesh name. Councillors should then vote on the name in a publicly recorded process, the commission said.

However, councillors will tonight be given a recommendation that the Sinn Fein majority authority should instead hold a review of the use of the land, in partnership with the local community.

But unionists fear the option could see the land handed into local community ownership, permanently retaining the McCreesh name.

DUP Newry and Armagh MLA William Irwin said: “The McCreesh park issue has laid bare the hypocrisy and abject failure of leadership from those who continually lecture unionists about equality and integrity.”

He also labelled SDLP councillors’ repeated support for the McCreesh name as “shambolic and indicative of a party that cannot decide whether it is happy to memorialise terrorists or not”.

DUP councillor Harry Harvey said the council’s recommended option “can only be an attempt to avoid taking the action demanded by the Equality Commission”.

UUP MLA Doug Beattie said: “If Sinn Fein does indeed disregard the recommendations from the Equality Commission then it will lay bare just how hollow their commitment to ‘respect, equality and integrity’ really is.”

In 2014, he added, Gerry Adams said that equality was “the Trojan Horse of the entire republican strategy” and that “the point is to actually break these b*****ds”.

UUP councillor David Taylor added that he did not think the council’s preferred option would be “an acceptable way” of addressing the commission’s recommendations.

An SDLP spokesman said naming a children’s park in this way is something “which clearly caused hurt to victims and survivors” but that the party “must also recognise the hurt experienced by the McCreesh family and the pain that this protracted situation continues to cause them”. The party will continue its “genuine pursuit of reconciliation”, he added.

The council said tonight’s meeting will consider an analysis of public responses on the name and three options regarding the way forward, the recommended choice being in line with the council’s strategic review of play areas.

It is not clear how the vote may impact on an ongoing legal challenge of the name.