Belfast Telegraph

Grandmother taking legal action over Raymond McCreesh park remains 'concerned new process will not guarantee name goes', court hears

By Alan Erwin

A grandmother taking legal action over a playground being called after an IRA hunger striker remains concerned a new process will not guarantee its name goes, the High Court has heard.

Even though Bea Worton "cautiously" welcomed the decision by councillors to review the future of Raymond McCreesh Park in Newry, her lawyers urged against ending the case without certainty on the outcome.

A final order on proceedings has now been put back until next week at the earliest.

Mrs Worton, 89, was seeking to judicially review Newry, Mourne and Down District Council for alleged bias or irrationally in naming the park after the IRA man.

Her son Kenneth was one of 10 people massacred by the paramilitary grouping at Kingsmill, south Amagh in 1976.

McCreesh, from Camlough in Armagh, was reportedly in possession of a rifle used in the killings when he was captured later that year.

He was one of seven IRA prisoners who died in the 1981 Maze Prison hunger strikes. Three other republican prisoners who were members of the INLA also died.

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

Controversy has continued to surround the park since councillors voted to retain the name in February 2015.

Last year the Equality Commission told the local authority it should debate and take a fresh decision on the park.

At a meeting on Wednesday night councillors voted on three options: keep the park's name, rename it or leave it in place pending the outcome of a play strategy which includes a proposal to close either that playground or another in the area.

A majority of 23 representatives from Sinn Fein and the SDLP backed the third option, recommending a review of the land.

The other nine members present voted for a change in its name.

With consultation on the park's future set to begin in January, the court was told a final decision is expected by April.

A barrister representing the council argued that the new circumstances could lead to Mrs Worton achieving what she sought by an alternative route.

But counsel for the pensioner, David Scoffield QC, said she still has major reservations about how the process will play out.

He told the court that the name current remains, with Mrs Worton concerned that the outcome is not guaranteed.

Mr Scoffield urged the judge not to dispose of the challenge amid the continued uncertainty.

During exchanges Mr Justice McCloskey raised the possibility of dismissing the case without prejudice, meaning Mrs Worton could return to court in future.

Adjourning to next Wednesday, he also requested more information on any link between the Equality Commission's position and the actions of the Council.

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