McKinney: I would support bid to remove IRA hunger striker name from park

The SDLP's Fearghal McKinney
The SDLP's Fearghal McKinney

Within three days, the SDLP’s newest MLA has gone from defending his party’s support for the naming of a play park after a terrorist to supporting it being re-named.

On Friday, Fearghal McKinney told the News Letter that SDLP councillors in Newry and Mourne Council had been well-intentioned in voting to name the children’s play area after IRA man Raymond McCreesh, who was found with a weapon linked to the Kingsmills massacre.

The former UTV journalist, who yesterday took his seat as an MLA for South Belfast, replacing Conall McDevitt, said: “What our councillors tried to do in Newry was to bring an end to that, in recognition that it had been historically called that, they were prepared to suffer that for that wider good – that it would never happen again... we were dragged onto that pitch by those who would seek division rather than reconciliation.”

Yesterday, Mr McKinney was asked about the issue on BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show. He said that “the SDLP has already made it clear that what was done was wrong, in naming it McCreesh Park, and the SDLP does not support the naming of it after an IRA hunger striker”.

He added: “The Newry councillors acted with the best of intentions but the outcome was wrong and we acknowledge that and we acknowledge that it caused hurt to people but what they were trying to do was to make sure that this will never happen again and it will never happen again.”

When asked what had changed since the vote was taken, Mr McKinney said that the party had been influenced by the “enormous uproar about it”.

Pressed on whether the SDLP would support a motion to remove McCreesh’s name from the park, Mr McKinney said “there is a possibility that people may some time in the future think about bringing forward a motion to change that”.

Mr McKinney initially would not say whether his party would support the motion but eventually said, “I expect they would support that motion...I would support that motion”.