Kingsmills victim claims ‘victory on points’ in IRA playground case

Newry, Mourne and Down councillors voted earlier this month to recommend a review of the land
Newry, Mourne and Down councillors voted earlier this month to recommend a review of the land

A grandmother’s legal action over a playground being called after an IRA hunger striker has ended – but she retains the right to resurrect her case if a new process does not result in the name going.

The conclusion to Bea Worton’s High Court challenge was confirmed following a decision by councillors to review the future of Raymond McCreesh Park in Newry.

Bea Worton has ended her action but it could be resurrected if the name of Raymond McCreesh Park is not changed

Bea Worton has ended her action but it could be resurrected if the name of Raymond McCreesh Park is not changed

The pensioner’s son, Colin, claimed the outcome and an award of costs represented a victory for his mother.

He said: “It wasn’t the one-punch knockout that we wanted, but we feel we have won on points.”

Mrs Worton, 89, was seeking to judicially review Newry, Mourne and Down District Council for alleged bias or irrationally in naming the park after the IRA man.

Her son Kenneth was one of 10 people massacred by the paramilitary grouping at Kingsmills, south Amagh in 1976.

McCreesh, from Camlough in Armagh, was reportedly in possession of a rifle used in the killings when he was captured later that year.

He was one of 10 IRA prisoners who died in the 1981 Maze Prison hunger strikes.

His convictions included attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, possession of firearms with intent to endanger life and IRA membership.

Controversy has continued to surround the park since councillors voted to retain the name in February 2015.

Last year the Equality Commission told the local authority it should debate and take a fresh decision on the park.

Earlier this month councillors voted on three options: keep the park’s name, rename it or leave it in place pending the outcome of a play strategy which includes a proposal to close either that playground or another in the area.

A majority of 23 representatives from Sinn Fein and the SDLP backed the third option, recommending a review of the land.

The other nine members present voted for a change in its name.

Consultation on the park’s future is set to begin next month, with a final decision expected by April.

The new circumstances were described as providing the potential for Mrs Worton to achieve her goal by an alternative route.

At a further hearing it was confirmed that the challenge is to be dismissed on a without prejudice basis, meaning she can revive her case if the consultation process does not result in the park being taken out of public ownership.

The pensioner can seek to reinstate proceedings for up to four weeks after the council makes its final decision.

Before ending the hearing, Mr Justice McCloskey stressed the need for local authorities to ensure equality of opportunity and represent all sections of community.

Colin Worton, who attended court on behalf of his mother, insisted the park should have another name.

“There’s bound to be something else we could all agree on, without using the name of a terrorist,” he said.

“Even a footballer like Pat Jennings, we could all associate with someone like that.”

Afterwards, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council issued the following statement: “Newry, Mourne and Down District Council acknowledges the decision of the High Court today to dismiss the judicial review application relating to the naming of the Raymond McCreesh play park in Newry without prejudice, and each party will have liberty to apply, once the council has completed its consideration of this issue.

“Throughout the history of these legal proceedings, the council has remained committed to adherence to its equality scheme. The council has worked closely with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland to achieve a solution to this difficult issue.

“The council remains committed to review the use and management of the land occupied by Raymond McCreesh Park in line with its council-wide strategic review of play areas in the council area.

“In January 2018 the council will initiate a consultation process relating to the consolidation of its play facilities in the locality and this will culminate in a decision on this issue during 2018.”