Talks between the Equality Commission and a council over the controversial naming of a children’s play park after an IRA hunger striker are finally set to take place.
It means the long-standing dispute regarding the naming of McCreesh Park in Newry will be aired in public by councillors for the first time in 18 months. Equality Commission officials have been invited to Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s good relations forum to meet all the councillors next month.
A decision in 2015 to retain the title of the park, named in 2001 after leading Provo Raymond McCreesh, infuriated unionists and IRA victims.
When McCreesh died in the Maze he was serving a sentence for possession of a gun linked to the 1976 Kingsmills massacre.
The commission determined that the council decision had broken its equality guidelines, and recommended the local authority carry out a consultation with ratepayers.
The commission initially accepted that the council had complied with its recommendation, but in July it rescinded the decision, saying the local authority had not been transparent in its dealings.
However, the council says it is now powerless to act, given that High Court judicial review proceedings are being taken by Bea Worton, the mother of one of the Kingsmills victims.
McCreesh, from Camlough, was one of 10 republican prisoners to die on hunger strike in the Maze Prison in 1981.
He was captured in June 1976 when in possession of a rifle that was used in the massacre of 10 Protestant workmen five months earlier.
DUP councillor Billy Walker welcomed the meeting with the commission. He said: “The only thing that will satisfy people is to see this decision rescinded and the park given a new name.”
Sinn Fein has consistently rejected the calls to change the name.