NI Assembly adopts motion criticising Raymond McCreesh park

Debate on decision by Newry and Mourne Council to name play park for hunger striker

Stormont. The Northern Ireland Assembly has adopted a motion criticising the naming of a Newry park after hunger striker Raymond McCreesh. File photograph: Paul Faith/PA

Stormont. The Northern Ireland Assembly has adopted a motion criticising the naming of a Newry park after hunger striker Raymond McCreesh. File photograph: Paul Faith/PA

 

The Northern Ireland Assembly has adopted a DUP motion criticising Newry and Mourne Council’s decision to name a Newry play park after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.

The long-running row got another airing this evening when the motion condemning the continued use of the Raymond McCreesh park name in Newry was adopted by 65 votes to 26.

The SDLP joined unionists and Alliance Party members in criticising the decision on the play park.

The adoption of the motion may have little material effect, as Sinn Féin members on Newry and Mourne Council on Monday night used their votes to prevent a debate to reconsider the decision to name the park after the hunger striker, who died in 1981.

‘Ridiculous’ park name

Proposing the motion, DUP MLA William Irwin said it was “ridiculous” that a play park be named after a “member of an illegal terrorist organisation . . . that conducted a reign of terror, destruction, murder and bloodshed on the people of Northern Ireland”.

Mr Irwin referred to the naming of McCreesh as one of those linked to an Armalite rifle used in the 1976 Kingsmill Massacre, in which 10 Protestant workmen were killed by the IRA.

Mr Irwin said the incident was an act of slaughter that lives vividly in the hearts and minds of many people, especially the families of those murdered.

“It is untenable to think that, only a few miles down the road from Kingsmills, we have a kids’ playground named in memory of McCreesh,” Mr Irwin said.

During the debate, Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff intervened to state he wanted it put on the record that he had seen the Historical Enquiries Team report into the Kingsmills massacre and that McCreesh was not named as a suspect.

Sinn Féin MLA Megan Fearon referred to the statue in Parliament Buildings, Stormont of Sir James Craig, the first unionist prime minister of Northern Ireland, who in opposing Home Rule helped establish the Ulster Volunteer Force and imported arms from Germany.

Ms Fearon said: “Every single morning that I walk into this building, I am faced with a 7-foot statue of James Craig, the man who brought the gun into Irish politics by establishing a paramilitary force to defy the democratic will of the people; the man who boasted of a Protestant parliament for a Protestant people, and the man who built the Orange state brick by brick. Raymond McCreesh played his part in smashing that state, and I think that that is a life worth remembering.”

‘Promote reconciliation’

SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said the debate was about “how we advance healing and actively promote reconciliation”.

He said “We regret the pain that this issue has caused to all victims and survivors, and we also recognise the hurt experienced by the McCreesh family. They too are victims; they lost a son, a valued son.

“This protracted situation will have caused them immense pain, and we do not want in any way to add to that pain. Party politics are being played out around these issues, and they are used continually to open wounds, wounds that we should all be working to repair.”