Belfast Telegraph

SDLP's Claire Hanna calls for name of Raymond McCreesh Park to be changed

By Gareth Cross

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

Speaking on Twitter 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 in 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 SDLP's senior leadership at the time and again in 2015 when only one member of the party 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 the potential of ownership 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, located 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 that the party does not support the naming of public spaces after those involved in the violence of the past.

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

"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 Massacre killings when he was captured later that year.

10 people were killed in the attack.

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.

Last week a banner was hung on a fence on the park declaring McCreesh "our hero".

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