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Bea ‘disappointed’ at park decision

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Bea ‘disappointed’ at park decision thumbnailRaymond McCreesh Park

THE mother of one of the Kingsmills victims has spoke of her "great disappointment" after the SDLP sided with Sinn Fein to ensure a Newry playpark remains named after the terrorist caught in possession of one of the weapons used in the massacre.

Last week Newry, Mourne and Down District Council to voted on a notice of motion, brought forward by independent councillor Henry Reilly, calling for the name of Raymond McCreesh to be removed from the park.

This vote took place last week in Downpatrick and prior to the meeting Unionist politicians had been hopeful that the SDLP would back their motion to revert to the original park name. These hopes had been further raised after delegates at the SDLP conference just two days earlier had passed an amendment against public spaces being named after men of violence.

However some SDLP councillors on Newry, Mourne and Down District Council appeared to reject this approach when all but three of them sided with Sinn Fein, who proposed an amendment to the motion, postponing any decision until the council has considered passing the playground into community hands.

The Alliance Party sided with the DUP, UUP and Cllr Reilly in the vote to revert to the original name. However the Sinn Fein-SDLP amendment carried by 24 votes to 10. Three SDLP councillors - Terry Andrews, Gareth Sharvin and John Trainor - abstained.

Raymond McCreesh died in 1981 on hunger strike in the Maze Prison. At the time of his arrest he was in possession of a rifle which was used at one of the most barbaric acts of sectarian slaughter of the Troubles.

In January 1976 ten Protestant workmen were lined up outside their work minibus at Kingsmills and gunned down by the IRA.

Kenneth Worton was one of those men killed by the IRA and now his mother, Bea, who lives in Markethill, has spoken of the great hurt naming the park after McCreesh has caused.

"It is incredible that in 2018 there are people who wish to name a children's play park after a terrorist," said Mrs Worton. "This is not someone who should be associated with a child's play area - there are a lot of families who haven't been able to watch their children grow up because of the IRA.

"There was some hope that the name could be changed but the U-turn by the SDLP has left me very disappointed. And it has left a lot of people in the Protestant community very disappointed as well."

Meanwhile the SDLP has since warned that any councillors who fail to support its position on the naming of the park will face internal party procedures.

 "The Newry, Mourne and Down councillors are aware that if the Play Park Strategy, which is due to report in two weeks, does not recommend the disposal of McCreesh Park then they will support a motion to rename the park, as per party policy," a party spokesperson said.

"Any SDLP councillor who does not support this party policy will automatically face internal party procedures."

UUP councillor David Taylor accused nationalist and republican representatives on the council of having no desire to sign up to the concept of a truly shared society.

"I am extremely angry and disappointed at this deplorable failure by Newry, Mourne & Down District Council to resolve the issue created by the naming of a children's play park after Raymond McCreesh," he said.

"This latest snub is a further blow to innocent victims of republican violence who have already had to endure significant hurt and pain as a consequence of this ongoing issue.

"The failure to support the motion brought by Unionist councillors provides a worrying insight into what I can only describe as a narrow sectarian mind-set of republican and nationalist representatives serving on Newry, Mourne & Down District Council."

Meanwhile Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin MLA branded the SDLP as "gutless" on how they handled the matter last week.

"This was yet another opportunity in what has been a very long series of opportunities for the SDLP in Newry, Mourne & Down District Council to prove they respect the innocent victims of the IRA's brutal terrorist campaign of murder," said Mr Irwin.

"Once again they have acted in a selfish and gutless manner and refused to support a direct motion to change the name of the play park to an appropriate non-offensive name. By their actions they have disrespected the memory of IRA victims."

He concluded, "The SDLP must give an explanation for this seismic failure of leadership and indeed the leader of the SDLP Mr Eastwood must also explain himself for this shocking situation."

Newry & Armagh SDLP MLA Justin McNulty declined to comment on the matter when approached.

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