An IRA gunman after whom a Newry playground has been named is more deserving of international recognition than many Irish Nobel prize winners, a Sinn Fein MLA has said.
Raymond McCreesh, who was convicted of IRA membership and attempted murder, was arrested along with an armalite used in the Kingsmills massacre of 10 Protestants by the IRA in 1976.
Last week Newry and Mourne District Council voted to retain the name of Raymond McCreesh on a council playground in Newry, causing anger among unionists.
But Sinn Fein MLA Barry McElduff said on his blog that for many people McCreesh was “a hero and a martyr”.
“There are Irish people in possession of Nobel Prizes for their various contributions,” he said. “As far as I am concerned, Raymond McCreesh would be more deserving of international recognition than many of the past recipients.”
Recipients of Nobel Peace Prizes from either side of the Irish border have included David Trimble and John Hume in 1998, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan in 1976 and Sean MacBride in 1974.
For literature they have included Seamus Heaney in 1995, George Bernard Shaw in 1925 and WB Yeats in 1923.
Irish scientist Ernest Walton also won the Nobel prize for physics in 1951.
One Facebook poster poured scorn on Mr McElduff’s suggestion.
“A man convicted of arms offences wouldn’t be an obvious choice for a Nobel Peace prize,” said John Hart.
“Grinding fertiliser isn’t exactly pushing the boundaries of chemistry either?”
Sammy Heenan, whose father William was shot twice in the back of the head by the IRA in his back yard near Rathfriland in 1985, responded that Sinn Fein need to “remove their misty-eyed romanticism about the IRA”.
He added: “These men masqueraded as neighbours by day and then went around shooting the same innocent neighbours in the back at night.”
UUP MLA Danny Kennedy described the blog as “deliberately offensive” and said that even “broad-minded unionists” were angered that the playground has been named after McCreesh.
Ukip councillor Henry Reilly said McCreesh’s name had been “synonymous with terrorism in the Protestant community in south Armagh; people were widely relieved when he was caught”.
However, a Sinn Féin spokesman said that when McCreesh’s fellow hunger striker Bobby Sands died “national parliaments across the world stood in silence”.