Belfast Telegraph

Park should never have been named after Raymond McCreesh, insists SDLP's Hanna

By Staff Reporter

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna has said that the name of the Raymond McCreesh Park in Newry should be changed.

In a Twitter post, South Belfast MLA Hanna said "it was and is wrong to name a kids' playground for anyone linked to Kingsmill".

A challenge to change the name of the controversial park was defeated at Newry, Mourne and Down District Council on Monday night.

Instead, councillors passed 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 meeting in protest.

When the park was first named, several SDLP councillors on the former Newry and Mourne Council supported the McCreesh name.

This was criticised by the party's senior leadership at the time and again in 2015 when only one member of the SDLP attended a vote to change the name and abstained.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP had already voted to leave the name in place until a review of council playgrounds is carried out later this year, with ownership potentially being transferred to the Ballybot community.

Ms Hanna said that she was saddened by the result "particularly in a week reflecting on the (Good Friday) Agreement and celebrating the values in it.

"This wasn't a time for whataboutery and rushing to repeat mistakes of the past," she said.

The park in Ballybot has attracted much controversy after it was named in honour of the former IRA man, with unionists and victims calling for the name to be changed.

An SDLP spokesperson said: "The SDLP party conference at the weekend unanimously reaffirmed this position.

"This children's play park should never have been named in this way.

"A cross-party consensus was reached at Newry, Mourne and Down District Council to follow a process to delist the play park.

"The councillors' assessment of the actions by the DUP last night was that this was political opportunism and they decided to vote to stick with the agreed process to resolve the issue once and for all.

"The SDLP leadership is crystal clear that this naming was wrong and has caused hurt to victims.

"The councillors are in no doubt from the leadership that if the matter is not resolved in coming weeks via the process parties agreed to, then they should bring a motion to rename."

McCreesh, from Camlough in Armagh, was reportedly in possession of a rifle used in the 1976 Kingsmill killings when he was captured later that year.

Ten Protestant workmen were killed in the attack.

DUP councillor Billy Walker described the actions of SDLP and Sinn Fein councillors as shameful.

He said: "A behind-closed-doors deal between SDLP and Sinn Fein councillors sends out the message that these parties have no interest in reconciliation, or respect for those who suffered at the hands of IRA terrorists.

"This is Sinn Fein and SDLP's real respect agenda laid bare in Newry, Mourne and Down," Mr Walker said.

Belfast Telegraph

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