Belfast Telegraph

Bid on naming of public facilities

A proposed new law to prevent public facilities such as parks from being named after those convicted of Northern Ireland terrorism could have support from unionists and nationalists, political leaders at Stormont said.

It follows a row over Sinn Fein's naming of a children's play park after an IRA hunger striker found guilty of attempted murder during the conflict.

The Ulster Unionists on Monday began consulting on a Private Members' Bill to prohibit similar decisions and the nationalist SDLP has said it would support comprehensive legislation.

SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said: "We would look positively at it if the bill was comprehensive enough, covering all victims and all aspects of terrorism, state terrorism, paramilitary terrorism, dissident and provisional and loyalist terrorism.

"The victims and survivors have suffered and we are there to protect them - we feel that they have suffered enough."

The Raymond McCreesh play park is in Newry, Co Down.

McCreesh, from Camlough in south Armagh, is one of 10 IRA prisoners who died in the Maze Prison in 1981 aged 24. His convictions included attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, possession of firearms with intent to endanger life and IRA membership.

He had been arrested five years earlier during a failed IRA ambush on an Army patrol in south Armagh in 1976.

Newry and Mourne District Council is to vote on Monday evening on whether to retain the name of the park.

In 2012 relatives of the Kingsmills victims of a sectarian IRA shooting during the Troubles objected to the name.

The victims were all textile workers who were travelling home from their factory in rural south Armagh when IRA gunmen ambushed their minibus and shot 10 of them dead.

A report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) of independent detectives concluded that the IRA was responsible for the atrocity and that victims were targeted because of their religion.

McCreesh was not convicted of the massacre, but the 2012 HET report stated that when he was arrested on another IRA operation, he was caught in possession of one of the guns that had been used in the Kingsmills murders.

Sinn Fein Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy has previously said he was an icon of struggle who died for his principles in the Maze hunger strike.

Private Members' Bills, if they enjoy cross-community support, can obtain Assembly endorsement without the powersharing ministerial Executive - where Sinn Fein is the largest nationalist party - agreeing.

They have been used to pass legislation toughening the law on prostitution and to bar anyone with a serious conviction from being a special political adviser at Stormont.

UUP MLA Tom Elliott published a consultation paper on the naming of public facilities after anyone convicted of a terrorist offence or membership of a proscribed organisation.

He said: "Legislation would introduce clarity and certainty for local councils, government departments and agencies, and create uniformity across Northern Ireland.

"Failure to introduce legislation will simply prolong the current situation where naming decisions can negatively affect community relations and risk further division along political and religious lines."

The consultation process will run for six weeks until April 13.

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