Sinn Fein lose appeal to save '˜IRA playground'

An attempt by Sinn Fein to stop Newry Mourne and Down District Council from selling off a playground named after an IRA man has been rejected.

The Newry park is named after Raymond McCreesh, who was on an IRA operation in 1976 when he was arrested with a weapon used in the Kingsmills massacre in south Armagh, during which 10 Protestant civilians were murdered. He died on hunger strike in 1981.

Last month unionist and SDLP councillors on the council voted to sell off the park, in the Ballybot area of the city, and replace it with a new facility nearby. It came after an independent report into play park provision in the area. However, Sinn Fein declared it would contest the decision through a ‘call-in’ procedure. A ‘call-in’ can be requested if a percentage of councillors believe a decision was not properly reached or would adversely affect a section of the community.

However the Chief Executive of the Council Liam Hannaway wrote to all councillors on Monday, with a copy of legal advice on the council decision to sell the park. A QC advised that Sinn Fein’s appeal that the decision would have a disproportionate impact on the nationalist community “does not have merit” Mr Hannaway said.

Republicans attend a rally in support of Raymond McCreesh play park outside the facility in Newry on 20 May 2018. Photo: Pacemaker.

Mr Hannaway said he would now proceed with the decision to dispose of the park.

Sinn Fein MP for Newry and Armagh Micky Brady said there had not been adequate consultation.

“There is clear disappointment at the outcome for the call-in among the people at Ballybot who weren’t consulted about the decision by the SDLP and unionists who fast tracked the sale of the park,” he told BBC Good Morning Ulster. “And this is against the wishes of the community.”

He asked why McCreesh Park was the only park in the review that was fast tracked for sale in the council review.

But UUP councillor David Taylor said it had been wrong to name a playground after a convicted IRA man.

“It is clear there has been a consultation process undertaken in respect of McCreesh Park over a number of years,” he said. “And I want to say that I certainly welcome the fact that a decision has been taken to reject the call-in that was submitted by Sinn Fein.

“It was always very clear that it was highly unlikely that this call-in process would be successful and it was clearly designed to delay the process to dispose of Raymond McCreesh Park rather than actually stop this process.”