Candlelit vigil held in support of Raymond McCreesh Park

December 22, 2014

Just over 350 people braved the elements on Tuesday evening to attend a candlelight vigil in the Raymond McCreesh play park in Ballybot in Newry to demonstrate their support for the play park retaining its name.

Several local residents addressed the vigil to speak of their pride in their area,  their park and in Raymond McCreesh, issuing a resounding message that the local community in Ballybot wish for the play park’s name to remain as a tribute to the Camlough Hunger Striker.

Speaking at the event, Newry & Armagh Sinn Féin MLA Mickey Brady, a Ballybot native, spoke of his great pride in his local area and launched a scathing attack on those who he said had “sectarianised” the issue of the Park name and “in doing so had attempted to criminalise not only Raymond McCreesh but the entire Ballybot community.”

“Those who would say that this community and all others who supported the naming of this Park after Raymond McCreesh had displayed a lack of respect and tolerance towards the feelings of the unionist community know very little about this close knit Ballybot community and its history of neighbourliness and friendliness. I reject this slander on both myself and those I represent,” said Mr Brady.

Raymond McCreesh’s brother Malachy thanked everyone involved in organising the demonstration and praised the people of Newry for their support and kindness to his family since Raymond’s death in 1981.

“You people have ensured that the sacrifice of Raymond who was born in Daisy Hill hospital up the road from here, and whose mortal remains in 1981 you helped carry out from the same hospital to his home in Camloch, will never be forgotten. Raymond was not a criminal then and we will not let he and his comrades be criminalised now,” said Malachy.

Ahead of Tuesday’s rally, over one thousand letters of support for retaining the name of the city play park were submitted to Newry and Mourne District Council by Mickey Brady and Sinn Fein councillor Valerie Harte.

Mr Brady commended those who supported the campaign and took time to register their views.

Expressing his anger at the “criminalisation” of the IRA Hunger Striker in the renaming debacle, the Sinn Fein MLA said, “Raymond McCreesh and the Hunger Strikers were not criminals then, they are not criminals now and we will not allow their names and memories to be criminalised.”