Sinn Fein vigil for IRA man McCreesh 'a slap in face for Kingsmill families', says brother of victim
A man whose brother was killed in the Kingsmill massacre has hit out at Sinn Fein after it organised a commemoration in honour of an IRA hunger striker linked to the atrocity.
The event was held on Monday night at the Newry play park named after Raymond McCreesh.
It came 24 hours after a similar commemoration organised by dissident republican group Saoradh.
McCreesh, who died on May 21, 1981 after 61 days without food, was caught in possession of a gun used in the Kingsmill attack in which 10 Protestant workmen were shot dead by the IRA in 1976.
Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was among the victims, said Sinn Fein had "glorified" McCreesh's memory.
He claimed it was further proof that the party had "not really changed" since the Barry McElduff incident.
Mr McElduff resigned as West Tyrone MP in January after posting a video with a Kingsmill loaf on his head on the anniversary of the massacre. He apologised but insisted he had not intended to cause offence.
Monday night's commemoration was attended by Sinn Fein Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady and former hunger striker Paddy Quinn.
At both Sunday and Monday's events a banner, which had been erected earlier this year and contained the message 'Raymond McCreesh: our hero', was on display.
Mr Worton, whose mother Bea has gone to court with her campaign for the play park to be renamed, said Sinn Fein's apology for the McElduff affair and its talk of equality was meaningless if the party continued to "glorify" IRA terrorism.
"If their apologies aren't followed by actions, then they're hollow," he said.
"They're not commemorating (McCreesh), they're just glorifying him as an IRA man. And why does it have to be held in the park?
"He didn't die in the park. They say that it's a park for the people, but it's not, it's Sinn Fein-run.
"This compounds the grief experienced by the families. I honestly don't know where they're coming from.
"This place can't move on until they catch themselves on.
"No mother should have to bury their child, but that's what my mother had to do."
Earlier this month Orfhlaith Begley, who replaced Mr McElduff as West Tyrone MP, caused unionist anger by attending a commemoration for hunger striker Bobby Sands as her first public engagement after winning the by-election.
She had previously pledged to "reach out" to unionists.
Mr Worton said Monday's McCreesh commemoration had done nothing to alter his belief that Sinn Fein operated double standards. "It's only talk. I'm 100% sure on the fact that Sinn Fein don't believe what they say. As I've said before, it's only from the teeth and not from the heart. They can fool others, but not us. We can see what's in their hearts," he said.
Newry and Armagh DUP MLA William Irwin said the commemoration had exposed Sinn Fein's stance on equality as a "smokescreen". "We have now had two events staged by republicans at what is a council-owned play facility and the nature of the events was an attempt to justify the actions of the IRA, a ruthless terrorist organisation that brutally murdered innocent people," he said.
"It certainly appears that within republicanism there is some type of distasteful competition as to who can bring the most offence to victims of the IRA, with Sinn Fein and dissident republicans both holding rallies within days of each other.
"Republicans talk of equality but this is a smokescreen which is being used in an attempt to airbrush the harsh, bloody and murderous reality of the terrorism that Raymond McCreesh represented.
"All this against the backdrop of a children's play area. It beggars belief that such a situation should exist at all and it needs to change quickly."
Victims' campaigner William Frazer was forced to cancel a counter-demonstration to coincide with Sunday's Saoradh rally after eggs and stones were thrown at his car the previous day. He claimed Monday's commemoration had laid bare "the faux nature of Sinn Fein's equality agenda".
Mr Frazer said he had reported Sinn Fein and Newry, Mourne and Down Council to the Equality Commission.
The Equality Commission said that it could not disclose whether it had received Mr Frazer's complaints due to "confidentiality reasons".
Newry, Mourne and Down Council refused to comment.
No one at Sinn Fein's HQ could be reached for a response.
However, Mr Brady told the Irish News following Monday's event that republicans "should not have to apologise" for commemorating their dead.
He also insisted that residents living close to the play park wanted it to retain its name.
"It took almost seven years for unionists to be offended by this, given that the park was named after Raymond in 2001," he said.
"There is also a great level of support from local residents in the Ballybot area."