McDonnell needs to speak out on McCreesh row

Morning View
Morning View

The leader of the SDLP Alasdair McDonnell needs to speak out about the row over the naming of a playpark in Newry after the IRA man Raymond McCreesh.

The News Letter has made a number of attempts to interview him about the matter, which has caused dismay to unionists in general, and to victims of republican terror in particular.

It is all the more important that Dr McDonnell’s views are made clear, given that he is standing for re-election in South Belfast, where he is dependent on moderate support, and even a degree of cross-community backing.

All political party leaders find that they are embarrassed by some of their elected representatives from time to time. It is inevitable when you are at the helm of an organisation that has thousands of members and hundreds of activists.

But this dispute in Newry goes to the heart of something that is causing particular alarm to most pro-Union voters in Northern Ireland, including many Alliance supporters: a re-writing of history to retrospectively legitimise IRA terror.

The Provisionals carried out many sectarian massacres from Kingsmills to La Mon to Enniskillen.

Some of the bravest critics of such terror were found in the SDLP. Their steadfast opposition to violence during the Troubles was all the more admirable, because unlike unionists they went canvassing in republican areas.

The re-writing of history equates the British state (which prevented anarchy in the Province) with IRA thuggery. It will only succeed if moderate nationalists concur with it.

Naming playparks after terrorists is the sort of thing that assists such re-writing. It also poisons community relations.

The SDLP has seemed ambivalent about the McCreesh row since it first flared up some years ago.

Reminding voters that the party always opposed terror will differentiate it clearly from Sinn Fein, in the same way that its eventual support for the National Crime Agency has done.