Sinn Fein’s ‘moral bankruptcy’ with challenge to McCreesh Park sell-off

Sinn Fein has displayed “moral bankruptcy” by challenging a council decision to sell off a playground named after a notorious IRA terrorist, a DUP MLA has claimed.

Unionist and nationalist parties on Newry Mourne and Down District voted last week to dispose of Raymond McCreesh Park in Newry and replace it with a new facility nearby.

Supporters attend a republican gathering at Raymond McCreesh play park in May of this year

Supporters attend a republican gathering at Raymond McCreesh play park in May of this year

It came after an independent report into play park provision in the area.

However, Sinn Fein has declared it will 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.

Sinn Fein councillor Liz Kimmins said residents’ voices “must be heard and respected” on the future of the park.

Ms Kimmins added: “At last Monday’s meeting Sinn Fein opposed the disposal based on concerns raised by local residents and community groups and proposed a full community consultation.

“This was rejected by the SDLP and unionist parties which is hardly surprising given that they have always wished to remove the name of Raymond McCreesh Park.

“Despite the fact that 10 play parks in Newry & Mourne Council area have been declared as surplus assets, Raymond McCreesh is the only one that has been fast-tracked for disposal.”

McCreesh 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.

Newry and Armagh DUP MLA William Irwin said the reasoning behind Sinn Fein’s use of the call-in procedure “gives great cause for concern”.

He told the News Letter: “Sinn Fein continue to try and present a case for defending the naming of the park which flies in the face of all advice received by the council to date and the naming is an insult to innocent victims of the IRA’s terrorist campaign.

“The decision to dispose of the park has been taken by council and crucially has had cross-party support.

“Sinn Fein are showing their moral bankruptcy by attempting to delay this process.”

UUP councillor David Taylor said the park would initially be open to expressions of interest from government departments who may wish to purchase it.

He also said there is a possibility the site could pass into community ownership, adding: “This was not something I would support, as it could potentially mean the new owner would simply use the McCreesh name again.”