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IRA victim's mum wins first round in play park legal bid

By David Young

Published 09/04/2016

Bea Worton and supporters outside the High Court in Belfast yesterday
Bea Worton and supporters outside the High Court in Belfast yesterday
Raymond McCreesh

A grandmother has told how she is fighting a legal battle against the naming of a play park after an IRA hunger striker because she does not want children to think he was a hero.

Bea Worton (88), was granted leave yesterday to seek a judicial review against the Equality Commission and a local council over the decision to continue to call a Newry children's play park after Raymond McCreesh.

She decided to take legal action when she learned that McCreesh had reportedly been caught with a weapon used in the Kingsmill 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.

One man - Alan Black - survived, despite having been shot 18 times.

Mrs Worton said: "I don't want children to think Raymond McCreesh was some kind of hero.

"Why didn't they name the park after some VIP that really deserved it - I feel sickened that they named it after him."

The Markethill woman added: "There are lots of children who'll be going into the park and they'll want to know who Raymond McCreesh was. What honour did he do? They would think he must have been a great man to get something named after him, the way Georgie Best had the airport named after him.

"Georgie Best was a great footballer but Raymond McCreesh had nothing to be proud of. He was just a terrorist."

In court yesterday, her barrister set out how McCreesh was reportedly in possession of a rifle used in the killings when he was captured later that year.

David Scoffield QC said: "The applicant's outrage at this decision (in naming the park) is particularly acute.

"She was and remains shocked and bewildered by the insensitivity of the decision."

Controversy has continued to surround the park since councillors voted to retain the name in February last year.

McCreesh, from Camlough in south Armagh, was one of 10 IRA prisoners who died in the hunger strike in the Maze Prison in 1981.

His convictions included attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, possession of firearms with intent to endanger life, and IRA membership.

Part of the play park case involves a claim that the naming process breached Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act, which requires public authorities to promote good relations between those of differing religious backgrounds or political opinion.

The Equality Commission, according to Mrs Worton's legal team, should have found against the local authority and referred the matter to the Secretary of State.

Mr Scoffield accused it of a "volte-face" by switching from an earlier opinion where it had requested the council to review the naming decision.

Tony McGleenan QC, responding for the Commission, argued that it had gone through a painstaking process before making recommendations.

"It's difficult to establish any arguability that there's been a public law wrong by the Commission," he said.

However, Mr Justice Maguire ruled that the challenge should proceed to a full hearing on claims that the Commission was in breach of Section 75 requirements.

He also held that an arguable case had been established against the Council over allegations its decision was irrational, unreasonable, pre-determined or biased.

Rejecting claims the case should be thrown out due to delay, Mr Justice Maguire said: "There's a matter of public interest involved in this particular decision."

No-one has ever been convicted of the Kingsmill murders.

Belfast Telegraph

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