Wells urges SDLP to back Newry play park motion

A banner erected at the park in Newry last month lauded 'hero' McCreesh
A banner erected at the park in Newry last month lauded 'hero' McCreesh

Jim Wells has urged the SDLP to ensure a Newry playground is no longer linked to IRA terrorist Raymond McCreesh.

The DUP MLA made his comments ahead of Monday night’s motion before Newry, Mourne and Down council – that the children’s facility reverts to its original name ‘Patrick Street play park’.

Raymond McCreesh was one of 10 IRA hunger strikers who died in the Maze in 1981

Raymond McCreesh was one of 10 IRA hunger strikers who died in the Maze in 1981

A proposal to rename the park was defeated in the council chamber as recently as December 2017 when 13 SDLP councillors voted against a name change.

Convicted IRA member McCreesh was in possession of a rifle used in the 1976 Kingsmills massacre of 10 Protestants when he was arrested several months later. He was the third of 10 prisoners who died during the Maze hunger strikes in 1981.

The park was named after him in 2001, a decision which antagonised unionists and has been subject to a legal challenge led by Bea Worton, the mother of one of the victims of the Kingsmills atrocity.

On Saturday night, Mr Wells tweeted: “On Monday evening the SDLP have a very clear choice. Do they support a children’s play park being named after an IRA terrorist or not?”

In recent weeks – after a banner was erected at the park lauding McCreesh as a “hero” – DUP leader Arlene Foster said: “Glorifying those who used terrorism only serves to confuse the next generation. Violence was futile.”

Speaking to the News Letter on Friday, DUP councillor William Walker said: “We’re not even calling for it to be named anything else, simply for it to revert to the original ‘Patrick Street play park’. It has dragged on and on. I hope the SDLP do the decent and honourable thing and vote with their unionist colleagues.”

UUP councillor David Taylor said: “It’s been a running sore in my opinion for the council for far too long now. The issue needs to be resolved immediately.”

An SDLP spokesman said: “The SDLP is opposed to the naming of any space after individuals involved in the violence of the past.”