|Raymond McCreesh mural|
In Newry and Mourne District Council SDLP members have joined with Sinn Fein to retain the name of a park, which was named after an IRA terrorist.
The park, which includes a children's playground and sports pitches,was renamed in 2001 after convicted IRA terrorist and hunger-striker Raymond McCreesh.
There has long been criticism of the name, which many people see as endorsing terrorism and there have been calls for the playground to be given a more appropriate name.
In 2008 the Equality Commission called for an equality impact assessment but a sub-committee of the council has just voted to retain the current name, Raymond McCreesh Park. They decided that naming a park and a children's playground after an IRA terrorist complies with their legal obligation to promote equality of opportunity and good relations!
In 1977 McCreesh was convicted of attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, possession of firearms with intent to endanger life, and membership of the Provisional IRA. Later he went on hunger strike and died in 1981.
Last year the PSNI Historical Enquiries Team linked McCreesh to a series of IRA murders committed with the Armalite rifle he was carrying when he was arrested, including the Kingsmills massacre in 1976.
According to a report in the NewsLetter, SDLP and Sinn Fein embers of the sub-committee voted to keep the name and it will now come before the full council meeting on Monday 3 December.
It is no surprise that Sinn Fein councillors endorsed the current name. That is what one expects from Sinn Fein. There have been changes in Sinn Fein but they still have some way to go and they still retain the bizarre position of saying that it is wrong to murder a policeman or a prison officer today but that during the Provisional IRA campaign it was not wrong to murder them.
However the real shame in this is the shame of the SDLP. Under the bumbling leadership of Alasdair McDonnell MP MLA, the party stumbles from one disaster to another, unsure of itself and uncertain of what to do. But is seems to be drawn towards the idea of being as green as Sinn Fein. We have seen that in their support of dissident republican prisoners and their lack of principle in relation to the attempted murder of Councillor Sammy Brush.
So we will wait for Monday 3 December to see what they do when the matter comes to the full council. It is possible that the decision to retain the current name of the playground was made at a local level in the SDLP with no input from the central leadership but the matter is now out in the media and the party leader cannot evade it. Will he intervene or will he avoid the issue? How these councillors vote will tell us much about them but it will also tell us much about Alasdair McDonnell and that is something that voters in South Belfast, unionist and nationalist, would do well to note.
Alasdair McDonnell, as leader of the SDLP, should tell us if he thinks it right to name a children's playground after a convicted killer ... and just in case he hasn't noticed the issue, the media should be asking him the question ... so over to you Irish News, over to you, Belfast Telegraph, over to you Talkback, and over to you, Stephen Nolan.