Row over dissident vigil at ‘IRA playground’

Stephen Murney of Saoradh said the vigil will go ahead despite 'unionist hysteria'
Stephen Murney of Saoradh said the vigil will go ahead despite 'unionist hysteria'

Plans to hold a vigil in a Newry playground for a man arrested with a weapon used in an IRA atrocity are “unacceptable and indeed offensive” it has been claimed.

Dissident republican party Saoradh is to hold an event on Sunday at 2pm at Raymond McCreesh Park in Newry to “pay tribute to one of Ireland’s bravest”.

The park has been at the centre of political wrangling in recent years as it is named after the IRA hunger striker, who was arrested with a weapon used in the Kingsmills massacre of 10 Protestant civilians by the IRA several months after the 1976 atrocity.

Bea Worton, whose son Kenneth was one of those killed, challenged the name on equality grounds last year in court.

The challenge was put on hold on the understanding that Newry Mourne and Down District Council, which owns the park, would soon change the name. However, unionists say there is still no sign of movement on the issue.

Saoradh member Stephen Murney said their event would not be halted.

“No amount of unionist hysteria will change our plans to hold this event,” he tweeted.

“Republicans will remember our dead in any way we see fit. We won’t be lectured by bigots and we will defy their calls to stop our event. The vigil/rally will go ahead as planned.”

Colin Worton, Kenneth’s brother, responded that “we are not pleased to put it mildly”.

He added: “In my mind it is wrong to call McCreesh a hero. When he was surrounded by soldiers why was his first reaction to call the RUC to rescue him? And we know from state papers that he repeatedly asked to come off the hunger strike but was talked out of it.”

Newry and Armagh DUP MLA William Irwin said: “Hosting such a rally on council property in a children’s play area, really is unacceptable and indeed offensive and this should be prevented by Newry, Mourne and Down Council.

“The council as a corporate body has a huge responsibility in this regard and they must act decisively to prevent this space being used for anything other than kids’ enjoyment.”

South Armagh victims’ campaigner William Frazer said victims have been deeply hurt by the vigil plans.

“The Kingsmills families have been in touch with our office, they are devastated,” he said.

“This is the outworkings of the equality agenda that republicans tell us about. If organisers have not received permission, this event needs stopped by police.”

A council spokesman said it has not received any request to hold the event.