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UUP bid to ban the naming of public facilities after convicted terrorists

MLA plans Bill in row over play park named after IRA man

By Deborah McAleese

Proposed legislation to ban the naming of public facilities after convicted terrorists has been put out for public consultation.

The process was launched following the controversial naming of a children's play park in Newry after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.

UUP MLA Tom Elliott, who will introduce the Private Member's Bill in the Assembly today as the consultation process starts, said the "furore" over the naming of the play park is proof that such laws are needed.

"Such actions only serve to polarise and divide communities, as well as having a hugely negative effect on the victims and the families of victims," said Mr Elliott.

He added that legislation would introduce "clarity and certainty for local councils, government departments and agencies", and create "uniformity across Northern Ireland".

Alliance leader David Ford said cases like McCreesh Park showed that unionist and nationalist parties did not want to resolve divisive issues.

"It is not just issues like the name of a children's play park in Newry. We have also seen the decision by the outgoing Craigavon Council to defy equality advice and fly the Union flag daily," said Mr Ford.

He added: "Alliance representatives, whether in councils, the Assembly, the Executive or Parliament, will use their influence to end such division. Sadly, we will all too often stand alone."

The Newry park is named after Raymond McCreesh, who died on hunger strike in 1981. He has been linked to the 1976 Kingsmills massacre, in which 10 Protestant workmen were murdered by the IRA.

The motion to keep the name of the park - which has been in place since 2001 - was passed by 15 votes to four at Newry and Mourne council last month. Sinn Fein councillors and two independent republicans voted in favour.

Eight out of nine SDLP councillors failed to turn up for the committee meeting during which the vote was taken - leading to criticism from the party's own leadership. The SDLP said the decision was wrong, and its representatives should have been there.

The party said it was committed to building a shared future and that no public place should be named after those involved in state or paramilitary violence.

An Ulster Unionist motion to rename the playground Patrick Street Play Park is due to be debated tonight at the council. UUP councillor David Taylor said the motion "represents an opportunity to reverse a morally corrupt decision to name a children's play park after a terrorist".

Background

The naming of a children's play park in Newry after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh has been an ongoing controversy, with the Equality Commission criticising Newry and Mourne Council last April for retaining the name. The commission said the decision went against the council's equality scheme and should be reviewed.

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