ULSTER Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy has welcomed the news that the Equality Commission is to undertake a formal investigation into Newry and Mourne Council’s decision to name a children’s play park after a South Armagh hunger striker.
Mr Kennedy said there was no doubt in his mind that the decision taken by the Sinn Fein and SDLP councillors in December to formally approve the naming of the park after IRA man Raymond McCreesh, was “deeply flawed, caused great offence and damaged community relations”.
The Newry and Armagh MLA stated: “I said at the time that I honestly could not think of anyone less deserving of commemoration in any shape or form – let alone a children’s playpark – than Raymond McCreesh, and that those who voted for this should hang their heads in shame.
“I am therefore delighted that the Equality Commission has reviewed the information made available to it following a complaint and is to investigate whether or not the Council complied with equality obligations, including the need to have 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’.
“I look forward to a speedy investigation and am confident the Commission will find that the decision taken by Sinn Fein and the SDLP in December was clearly wrong, and that those councillors be held to account and take responsibility for their actions.”
The Raymond McCreesh Park was originally named in 2001 despite opposition and last year’s decision by Newry and Mourne District Council to retain the name has attracted criticism from Unionists and from victims of IRA violence.
Camlough-born McCreesh was a convicted IRA member jailed for a series of offences during the Troubles, including attempted murder, for a total of 19 years.
He died in the Maze prison in 1981 after 61 days on hunger strike, along with other leading Republicans including Bobby Sands and Francis Hughes.