New attempt to drop IRA man’s name from park hinges on SDLP

A sign at the entrance to Raymond McCresh park in Newry
A sign at the entrance to Raymond McCresh park in Newry

The controversial naming of a playpark in Newry after an IRA gunman and hunger striker is to go back before the local council on Monday.

A motion put forward by the eight unionist councillors on the Newry, Mourne and Down council calls simply for the removal of the name Raymond McCreesh from the play park.

Raymond McCreesh park in Newry

Raymond McCreesh park in Newry

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.

He was the third of 10 IRA prisoners who died during the hunger strikes in 1981.

The park was named after him in 2001, a decision which has since caused consternation amongst unionists and has been subject to a legal challenge led by Bea Worton, the mother of one of the victims of the 1976 Kingsmills massacre.

If the proposal to remove the name is to have any chance of approval, it is highly likely to need the support of the SDLP.

There are eight unionists on the council, with Sinn Féin and the SDLP taking 14 each of the 41 seats.

A proposal to rename the park was defeated in the council as recently as December 2017. Then, 13 SDLP councillors voted against a name change, siding with 10 from Sinn Féin to choose a third option which could see the park handed over by the council to a third party.

DUP Councillor William Walker said: “It’s a standalone motion that the name is rescinded.

“We’re not even calling for it to be named anything else, simply for it to revert back to the original ‘Patrick Street playpark’ as it was before the name was changed in 2001.”

He continued: “It has dragged on and on. I hope that the SDLP do the decent and honourable thing and vote with their unionist colleagues on Monday night.”

UUP councillor David Taylor said: “It’s been a running sore in my opinion for the council for far too long now.

“We believe the issue has been talked about and reviewed for far too long now. The issue needs to be resolved immediately.”

An SDLP spokesperson said: “The SDLP is opposed to the naming of any space after individuals involved in the violence of the past.”