A vote to rename Raymond McCreesh Park in Newry failed at a controversial meeting of Council last night (Wednesday).
In total 23 SDLP and Sinn Fein councillors voted against a name change, instead opting for a public consultation into the matter.
Three DUP, three UUP, two Alliance councillors and one independent unionist voted for a name change.
Unionists on the Newry, Mourne and Down Council had called on the children’s play park to be renamed, saying it is unacceptable for it to be branded after “a convicted IRA terrorist”.
A member of the Provisional IRA’s South Armagh Brigade, McCreesh was arrested in 1976 aged 19 while attempting to ambush an army observation post.
The gun he was found with had been used months earlier in the Kingsmill massacre of 10 Protestant workmen.
He was the third of 10 republicans to die on hunger strike in the Maze Prison in 1981.
UUP councillor David Taylor said: “To pass this issue off for further discussion under the play strategy consultation with a view to possibly transferring land ownership to the local community does not actually deal with the matter in hand in terms of the naming of a children’s play park after a convicted IRA terrorist.”
Dismayed that @nmdcouncil has failed to support proposal to change the name of Raymond McCreesh Park. The Council continues to fail to deal with this issue, my thoughts are foremost with those innocent victims of the Troubles who have been let down once again @uuponline
— David Taylor (@DavidTayloruup) December 13, 2017
Alliance councillor Andrew McMurray, said: “When naming public spaces we must be mindful of all in society.”
SDLP councillor Michael Savage said: “It has been an issue that’s been rumbling on for a long time and the SDLP has always been the party of good relations and reconciliation. We feel that this proposal is a common sense approach. There’s polar opposite views on this and I think it will help solve it long term.”
Sinn Fein’s Willie Clarke added: “We have a council strategy which is about to go out to consultation around January.
“There will be a good opportunity for the local community to talk about the Raymond McCreesh Park. It’s an opportunity to see what’s best for the community.”