Equality Commission to investigate Newry Council decision over Raymond McCreesh Park
The Equality Commission is to conduct an investigation into a decision made by Newry and Mourne District council to retain the name “The Raymond McCreesh Park” for a Council-owned play park in Newry.
The children’s play park in the Patrick Street area of Newry was renamed after a former Provisional IRA member after councillors in Newry and Mourne District Council voted back in December 2012.
The name of former Provisional IRA hunger striker – Camlough man Raymond McCreesh – was chosen in a vote which 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.
The Equality Commission investigation will consider whether, in making its decision, the Council failed to comply with commitments made in its Equality Scheme.
These included having due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity across the nine equality groups, and to have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group.
After consideration by its Statutory Duties Investigation Committee, the Commission said it was satisfied that it would be appropriate to have a belief that such a failure may have occurred in this instance. This, however, is not a determination of whether or not such a failure has in fact occurred.
Reacting to the news, Newry and Armagh DUP MLA William Irwin said he welcomed the decision by the Equality Commission to investigate the naming of a play park after what he described as an ‘IRA terrorist’.
Irwin also revealed the Equality Commission’s investigation follows a complaint he submitted to the Commission.
“The decision by nationalist councillors to vote in favour of naming a play park after an IRA terrorist was not only grossly offensive to the vast majority of people but cannot meet the Council’s duty to promote good relations in their area.
“The Councillors involved in pushing through this decision therefore should be made amenable for their actions.
“Following a meeting with the Equality Commission in January I submitted an official complaint to Newry & Mourne Council and was totally dissatisfied by their explanation for the decision to maintain the name of the play park.
Irwin said that because of his unhappiness with the Council’s response he passed their reply to the Equality Commission and requested that a ‘paragraph 10 investigation’ be carried out.
“I am glad that in tandem with this the Commission will also be conducting an official paragraph 11 investigation,” Irwin stated.
He added, “It is deeply unfortunate that we have seen a number of actions across nationalist controlled Councils in Northern Ireland recently where both the SDLP and Sinn Fein appear determined to pursue a divisive agenda which only serves to damage community relations and create tensions.”
A spokesperson for Newry & Mourne District Council confirmed the Council has received correspondence from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland advising that the Commission has authorised an investigation of failure to comply with an approved quality Scheme.
The Council spokesperson added, “As stated within our approved Equality Scheme, the Council will co-operate fully with the investigation by the Equality Commission.”
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