Belfast Telegraph

SDLP leadership backs renaming of Raymond McCreesh park

The SDLP has said its councillors should propose the renaming of Raymond McCreesh park if "the matter is not resolved in the coming weeks".

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.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, an SDLP spokesperson said: "The SDLP does not support the naming of public spaces after those involved in the violence of the past.

“This children’s play park should never have been named in this way.

"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."

In December, the SDLP faced a backlash after voting against renaming the park in order to avoid "stoking tensions".

The vote earlier this month was sparked by a banner hung at the council-owned park calling McCreesh "our hero".

An SDLP spokesperson said its councillors did not back the action as they felt it was "political opportunism" from the DUP and they wished to stick with the "agreed process".

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

The park was named after hunger striker McCreesh in 2001. The South Armagh IRA member has been linked to a rifle used in the infamous 1976 Kingsmill massacre in which 10 Protestant workmen were killed.

McCreesh was one of seven IRA prisoners who died in the 1981 Maze Prison hunger strikes.

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

In January, after the resignation by former Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff over a tweet in which he appeared to mock the victims of the massacre, McCreesh's family refuted the claim he had been involved.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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