Unionists will press council for vote on playground named after IRA man

IRA man Raymond McCreesh was arrested with one of the weapons used in the Kingsmills massacre five months after the atrocity
IRA man Raymond McCreesh was arrested with one of the weapons used in the Kingsmills massacre five months after the atrocity

Unionists on Newry Mourne and Down Council are to press the authority to vote on whether it should continue to name a playground after a convicted IRA gunman.

A legal challenge by south Armagh great-great-great grandmother Bea Worton against the council last year was adjourned in October when the court gave it until April 9 to resolve the matter.

The Newry playground is named after Raymond McCreesh, who was convicted of attempted murder and IRA membership in 1977.

Mrs Worton’s son Kenneth was one of 10 Protestant workmen killed by the IRA in the Kingsmills massacre in 1976; McCreesh was arrested with one of the weapons five months later.

Originally there were only two options for the vote, which has been directed by the Equality Commission; to retain or change the name.

But in December the mainly nationalist council voted for a third recommendation from an independent consultant, which may see the park given into community hands.

When asked in December if this amounted to a breach of SDLP promises to change the name, SDLP councillor Gary Stokes replied: “I suppose so.”

He also affirmed it would likely see the park remain named after McCreesh permanently.

UUP councillor David Taylor said the motion – which unionists want a vote on before April 9 – calls for “a neutral and non-partisan name”.

He added: “We believe this to be the only way in which this ongoing issue can be finally resolved.”

DUP councillor William Walker noted that SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell promised that SDLP councillors would vote to change the name at the next opportunity. “We now need to hear Colum Eastwood’s view on that promise,” he added.

Independent unionist Henry Reilly said the council was given “four or five years” to resolve the issue. “There does not seem to be any intent to deal with it,” he added.

The SDLP responded that it maintains the position it voted on in December, which may see the park given into community hands as part of the independent consultant’s recommendation.

The party remains “opposed to the naming of any space after individuals involved in the violence of the past” it added.

The council said that members voted in December to review the use of the park and that a consultation for consolidating several parks into one was brought forward by one year. The council cannot comment on the motion in advance, it added.