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Commission tells council to vote again on IRA man play park name

Published 01/07/2016

Raymond McCreesh Park in Newry
Raymond McCreesh Park in Newry

The Equality Commission has backtracked on its initial acceptance of a council review into the naming of Newry children's play park after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.

The commission had previously accepted that a review carried out by Newry and Mourne District Council complied with its recommendation.

However, on Friday it announced that following further consideration, it was rescinding that acceptance saying the local authority had not been transparent in its dealings.

It comes following judicial review proceedings by a grandmother whose son was murdered in the Kingsmills massacre.

In March 2014, the Equality Commission, following an investigation under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act, recommended that the council review the decision to name the play park after the IRA hunger striker, who died in 1981.

But the council controversially voted not to make the change.

The following March, the commission, while expressing its disappointment with the decision to retain the name, accepted that the review had complied with the recommendation made by the Commission.

It has now rescinded its own determination that the council was right to go against its recommendation.

The commission had recommended that the review should be done in a transparent manner that took proper account of the legal obligations to promote equality of opportunity and regard to the desirability of promoting good relations.

The commission said that following the granting of leave to apply for judicial review proceedings by 88-year old Bea Worton in April, they had given further consideration to the case.

The grandmother decided to take legal action when she learned that McCreesh had reportedly been caught with a weapon used in the Kingsmills massacre.

Mrs Worton's son Kenneth was one of 10 Protestant workmen who died when their red Ford Transit minibus was ambushed by the Provisional IRA in January 1976.

The killers separated the one Catholic man in the minibus from the others and then mercilessly gunned down the remaining 11 Protestants at the roadside.

She said she took the challenge because she "doesn't want children to think McCreesh is a hero".

On Friday, in a statement, the Equality Commission said: "Upon this further consideration the commission has concluded that the council has not fully complied with the recommendation, specifically around transparency, and has rescinded the decision challenged in the judicial review application.

"The commission has advised the council of this and recommended that, to ensure transparency, the council debate and vote on this issue should be conducted in public and properly recorded and that councillors should be provided with a qualitative analysis of the consultation responses prior to that debate and vote."

Dr Michael Wardlow, chief commissioner, added: “When we made our previous decision, the commission expressed its disappointment that the opportunity was not taken to find a name for the play park that would have more positive resonances with all those in the council area and that would be more conducive to good relations between the communities.

"That remains our view.”

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council said: "The Council has noted the letter from the Equality Commission but feel it would be inappropriate for Council to comment at this time as this matter is presently before the High Court."

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