SDLP must vote for park name change

SIR, — I write following Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s decision last week not to rename a play park in Newry named after terrorist Raymond McCreesh.

Instead, the local authority agreed to continue with a review into play facilities in the district as agreed at a meeting in December and for this process to be allowed to run to its conclusion.

McCreesh Park is a children’s play park and for it to be caught up in a naming issue in such a toxic manner is unhelpful for our next generation. The SDLP policy is clear — we do not support the naming of public spaces after those involved in conflicts.

The play park was named 20 years ago but this was a bad decision, taken in good faith after a poor, independent report was presented to councillors on the former Newry and Mourne Council. 

There have been recent opportunities to put this decision right, but an independent report suggested any movement, either way, in this naming issue could cause significant community tensions. No one wants to see that.

I understand a report is due to be completed in the next week or so which could see a plan to remove the park permanently as it may be deemed surplus to requirements. If this is the case then the park will go. 

However, if there is any fudge or delay as a result of this report I want to see my SDLP colleagues on Newry, Mourne and Down Council doing what I believe to be the correct thing and change the name of the park in the coming weeks.

In my years as a youth worker, I undertook many community relations programmes with young people and well appreciate how sensitive symbols, flags, images and names can be. 

I want to see the North progress and transit to become a place where such matters aren’t toxic. We aren’t there yet and the name of this children’s play park is causing hurt, pain and heartache for some victims.

Whilst I have no problem with either side of our conflict appropriately remembering those who engaged in their struggle, I think a children’s play park should be just that — a play park, a safe space for our children to play and learn in — free and shielded from the stresses of the adult world.

Yours etc,