Belfast Telegraph

'Mickey Brady needs to calm down': SDLP hit back after Sinn Fein accuse party of 'dancing to the tune of the Orange Order'

The Raymond McCreesh play park at the heart of the controversy
The Raymond McCreesh play park at the heart of the controversy

By Mark Edwards

The SDLP has hit back after Sinn Fein levelled accusations at it of 'dancing to the tune of the Orange Order'.

The comment came from MP Mickey Brady in the most recent spat over the naming of Raymond McCreesh Park in Newry.

The leadership of the SDLP earlier this week said its councillors in Newry, Mourne and Down District Council should propose the renaming of the park if “the matter is not resolved in the coming weeks”.

On Friday Mr Brady said the SDLP had a "new-found opposition" to the park's name, and "ditched their own position in order to dance to the Orange Order’s tune".

An SDLP spokesperson responded to this by saying: "Mickey Brady needs to calm down. We know Mr Brady has plenty of time on his hands to spend ranting about the SDLP instead of taking his seat in Westminster to fight against Brexit.

“But Mr Brady should be reminded that all of us involved in political life have a responsibility not to re-traumatise victims who have already suffered so much because of our violent past.

“Mr Brady should think before he starts issuing angry press releases, particularly when Sinn Fein supported the SDLP position to deal with the issue via the play park strategy."

Earlier this month, a unionist motion calling for a change to the Newry play park’s controversial name went before Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

The challenge to change the park’s name was defeated after councillors voted to pass an amendment to wait until a process - agreed in December - concludes on what should happen to the park’s name.

Unionist councillors stormed out of the April 9 meeting in protest.

The Newry play park was named after IRA man Raymond McCreesh, one of ten republicans who died in the 1981 hunger strike in the Maze Prison, in 2001.

Raymond McCreesh

In his earlier comments, Newry-Armagh MP Brady said: “Over recent days and weeks, we have seen increasingly vitriolic statements from a number of SDLP representatives calling for the Raymond McCreesh Park to be renamed.

"In so doing, they are ignoring the fact that the overwhelming majority of people from the Ballybot area believe that the name should remain unchanged.

“They are also ignoring the fact that, when the park was renamed in 2001, the Council was dominated by unionists and the SDLP. Despite this, the name change went ahead in line with the wishes of residents and council procedure.

“There was no controversy and no objections were raised until 2008 when the Newry District Loyal Orange Lodge, which is not located in the vicinity of the park, made a complaint.

It is unfortunate that the SDLP have now ditched their own position in order to dance to the Orange Order’s tune with their new-found opposition to the naming of the park. Sinn Fein MP Mickey Brady

"It is also a huge disservice to the local residents whose wishes the SDLP are blatantly ignoring in order to try and curry favour with unionism and the Orange Order.

“I have been contacted by many residents in the area who have expressed their anger at the position being adopted by the unionists and the SDLP and have indicated their determination to oppose any attempt to deny them their democratic wishes.”

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