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Equality watchdog in U-turn over play park named after Provo

By Cate McCurry

Published 02/07/2016

Bea Worton
Bea Worton

An equality watchdog has made a U-turn over its decision to accept a council review into the naming of a children's play park in Newry after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.

The Equality Commission had previously accepted that the review carried out by Newry and Mourne District Council had complied with its recommendation.

However, it has now backtracked and called for the council to debate and vote again on the naming of the play park. The commission said that after the granting of leave to apply for judicial review proceedings by 88-year old Bea Worton in April, it had given further consideration to the case.

The grandmother took 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 minibus was ambushed by the Provisional IRA in January 1976.

Mrs Worton welcomed the new decision by the commission, saying she hoped it would put an end to the long-running dispute.

She added: "I would love to see that name removed from the play park.

"I am sure there are plenty of other people in Newry who are entitled to it being named after them other than a terrorist."

It is now understood that the legal action will be suspended in light of the latest recommendation. In March 2014 the Equality Commission, after an investigation under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act, recommended the council review the decision to name the play park after McCreesh, who died in 1981 during the republican hunger strike in the Maze.

But the council voted not to make the change.

The following March the commission, while expressing its disappointment, accepted the review had complied with its recommendation.

It has now rescinded that verdict.

But it said that the new review should be transparent and take proper account of the legal obligations to promote equality of opportunity and regard to the desirability of promoting good relations.

Mrs Worton's son Colin welcomed the move but added it was a "pity" it only came after his mother launched legal action.

"It's nerve-racking for anyone to take a case against a Government body," he said. "I would hope that the council would come to their senses and use their grown-up thinking and change the name so that it's suitable to everybody, as using an IRA man's name on a children's play park is sickening."

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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