Unionists outraged after Newry play park renaming
A children’s play park in Newry will be renamed after a former Provisional IRA member after councillors in Newry and Mourne District Council voted on Monday night.
The name of former Provisional IRA hunger striker, Camlough man Raymond McCreesh was chosen in a vote which has caused outrage in local unionist circles.
In a vote that had gained widespread attention prior to the verdict, 20 nationalist councillors voted to uphold the decision to rename the Patrick Street play area ‘Raymond McCreesh Park’.
Five unionist councillors voted against it, (1 UKIP, 1 DUP and 3 UUP councillors) and local SDLP councillor Frank Feely abstained from the vote.
Slamming the decision, Newry and Armagh DUP Assemblyman Councillor William Irwin described the move as ‘bizarre’ and ‘blatantly sectarian’. “This is one of the most bizarre incidents in terms of sectarianism.
“Here we have a democratic, local administration previously taking a decision to name the play park after an IRA man, then after deliberating on the issue supposedly in terms of equality and good relations, have seen nothing wrong in maintaining the identity of the children’s play area after a convicted terrorist.”
“That really needs to be fully investigated as the message it sends out is blatantly sectarian and in my opinion totally damaging to children.”
He added, “There can be no justification for this move as it sends out a ridiculous message to children that Raymond McCreesh was some sort of role model for children, that could not be further from the truth.”
Ulster Unionist MLA for Newry and Armagh, Danny Kennedy, echoed Irwin’s sentiments and condemned the decision taken by Sinn Fein and SDLP councillors.
“I honestly cannot think of anyone less deserving of commemoration in any shape or form. Raymond McCreesh was a terrorist who was convicted of attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, possession of firearms with intent to endanger life and IRA membership.”
“To compound that, the Armalite rifle he was caught with was linked to a string of murders including the Kingsmills massacre.
“This is not ancient history, the wounds are still very raw, and were compounded by the fact that less than two days ago a memorial to the victims of Kingsmills was vandalised whilst under construction and the letters IRA were inscribed into it,” Kennedy added.
In a statement issued to Newry Times, Newry and Mourne Council said: “At Newry and Mourne District Council’s Monthly meeting on 3rd December 2012 the Council adopted the recommendations of the Staff and Policy / Equality Committee meeting held on Wednesday 21st November 2012.
“The recommendations agreed at the Council’s Monthly Meeting last night are the outworking of an equality impact assessment process in relation to the naming of Raymond McCreesh Park which involved a public consultation, of which the Equality Commission were a consultee, and the consideration of the issues to mitigate potential adverse impact.
The statement continued by outlining several agreements which included the Council’s agreement to uphold the decision to grant the application for renaming Patrick Street Play area as Raymond McCreesh Park..
“…and that in so doing Council formally acknowledge that the decision to rename the play park had potential to adversely impact upon good relations between people of different religious belief and political opinion.
It also included the Council removing existing park signage, non-Council and Official sign, and erect a new sign in keeping with Council policy. Additionally, the current Council policy regarding Applications to name a Council building, facility or room after an individual person be equality screened.
The spokesperson for NMDC added that the Council agreed that, “All Council policies, adopted or proposed to be adopted, be screened to ensure compliance with Council’s Equality Scheme and that the Council review all current approaches to consultation and decision-making arrangements.”
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