Northern Ireland

Unionists' call to rename park after IRA man McCreesh fails

Raymond McCreesh Park Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Debates over the name of Raymond McCreesh Park have gone on since it was opened in 2001

A motion calling for a council to rename a County Down playpark named after an IRA man has failed.

Unionists on Newry, Mourne and Down District Council put the motion forward on Monday night to remove Raymond McCreesh's name from a park in Newry.

He was among 10 republicans who died on hunger strike in prison in 1981.

The naming of the playpark after him has been controversial since it opened in 2001 and there have been numerous attempts to have it changed.

Sinn Féin councillors submitted an amendment to the unionist motion on Monday, which was accepted instead.

It argued that the council should continue with a review into play facilities in the district, as agreed at a meeting in December.

The amendment was supported by all but two of the SDLP members on the nationalist-majority council.

Unionist councillors had argued that the review was time-bound and that the time period allocated for it had passed.

But the council's chief executive Liam Hannaway confirmed that timeframe attached to the review was not legally binding.

'Kicked down the road'

McCreesh, who was from Camlough in south Armagh, had been caught in possession of a gun used in the murders of 10 Protestant workmen at Kingsmills in 1976.

His convictions included attempted murder and IRA membership.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Raymond McCreesh died on hunger strike in the Maze Prison in 1981

Speaking after the meeting, unionist councillors threatened further legal action in relation to the naming of the park.

Ulster Unionist David Taylor said it was "very clear" that republican an nationalist councillors "don't want to deal with this issue and want to kick it further down the road".

"This issue has been going on for years now", he said.

"There was a clear opportunity tonight to use their conscience, do the right thing and to vote with unionist representatives to support the renaming of this park.

"They failed miserably to do that."

Sinn Féin councillor Mickey Ruane said his party's amendment was intended to allow the parks review to "be allowed to run to its conclusion".

"Obviously all councillors want to see the situation dealt with and finished with," he added.

"But there are two sides to every story and everyone has their own narrative."

SDLP councillor Gary Stokes said he believed the review process would be completed within weeks.

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