McCreesh Park Row Continues As Sinn Féin Win Council Vote

The row over the naming of a playpark in Newry after an IRA volunteer has again resurfaced.

Sinn Féin Councillor Liz Kimmins said last night following a full meeting of Newry and Mourne District Council that “it was well past time for unionist and SDLP councillors to respect the wishes of the people of Ballybot on the issue of Raymond McCreesh Park.”

However, councillors opposed to the decision have agreed to bring the issue forward on a motion to the first meeting of the Newry Mourne and Down District Council when it meets early in April as it takes over the reins from the outgoing Newry and Mourne District Council.

Liz Kimmins added: “The hypocrisy of UUP and SDLP councillors in Newry knew no bounds and both parties have engaged in electoral stunts which smacked of desperation.

[caption id="attachment_55307" align="alignleft" width="390"]The row over the naming of the playpark at Ballybot in Newry continues. The row over the naming of the playpark at Ballybot in Newry continues as Sinn Féin press through with a majority on a decision at Newry and Mourne District Council.[/caption]

“Our position on this issue has always been consistent. We, and the overwhelming majority of people from the Ballybot area, believe that the name of Raymond McCreesh Park should remain unchanged.

“The Park was named in 2001 under the tutelage of a council dominated by unionists and the SDLP. Council procedure was fully followed and surveys taken by the Council indicated a clear support for the Raymond McCreesh name.

“In the seven-year period from the naming of the park in 2001 until 2008, no unionist councillors, SDLP councillors or members of the public raised any concerns or complaints over the decision.

“In 2008 the Newry District Loyal Orange Lodge, which is not located in the vicinity of the park, made a complaint.

“That complaint was investigated by the council and it found, after much deliberation, that the name should be retained. Since then there has been a very focused and nasty campaign to demonise this area and its community.

“It’s well past time for unionist councillors to respect the wishes of the people of Ballybot.

“However, I’m dismayed that the SDLP have now joined in the efforts to ride roughshod over the wishes of the people of the area.

“Clearly they are acting at the behest of a party leader so desperate to curry favour with unionist voters in a Westminster election that they have done a humiliating U-Turn on their position to appease the UUP and the Orange Order.

“It’s clearly time for all involved to respect the wishes of the people of the area and bring the curtain down on base election stunts.”

SDLP Vote To Rename McCreesh Park

SDLP Councillors on Newry and Mourne District Council voted to suspend the standing orders of the council to allow a reconsideration of the naming of McCreesh Park. Other parties voted against the proposal, shutting down the debate by 15 votes to 14.

Speaking after the vote, SDLP Group Leader Michael Carr said: “The naming of a public space, and especially a children’s park, in this way is something which has clearly caused considerable hurt to victims and survivors as well as the broader unionist and nationalist communities.

“We also recognise the hurt experienced by the McCreesh family and the pain this protracted situation will have caused them. We do not, in any way, want to add to that. The party politics played around these issues continues to open wounds that we should all be working to repair.

“The SDLP decision to back the renaming of the park isn’t about any individual. It is influenced by a desire to heal our divided society by moving on from tribal conflicts of the past. Peace and reconciliation isn’t just the absence of violence, it’s a fundamental shift in mindset and approaches to politics.

“It is unfortunate that other parties opposed a suspension of standing orders to allow this matter to be reconsidered. The SDLP is clear on this issue… no public space should be named after anyone involved in state or paramilitary violence. We will continue in pursuance of that policy.”