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McCreesh ‘hero’ banner reignites playpark dispute

A banner, which was erected at the Raymond McCreesh play park in Newry during last week, has reignited a row between unionists and nationalists.

The banner referring to Camlough-born IRA man as ‘Our Hero’ appeared alongside tricolours at the facility on Patrick Street ahead of the annual Easter commemorations.  It is thought local residents erected the banner in the playpark, which has been at the centre of bitter political and legal disputes over its naming in honour of Raymond McCreesh, who died on hunger strike in Long Kesh in May 1981.

UUP Councillor David Taylor described the display of the banner as “sick” and called on Sinn Fein to “have it removed”.   He said the banner is “a deliberate insult directed at McCreesh’s victims” and exposes Sinn Fein`s campaign for ‘rights, equality and respect’ “as nothing more than a perverse charade”. 

“I am deeply disappointed and shocked at the endorsement of this banner by Ballybot residents. By doing so they are causing deep offence to a great many people, including their Unionist neighbours,” Councillor Taylor said.

However, Sinn Fein MP Mickey Brady rejected the criticism and in turn condemned a Council motion led by Unionist Councilor Henry Reilly, which once again calls for the park to be renamed, as “a deliberate attempt to create community tension through demonising the residents of Ballybot”.

“The Ballybot community have been demonised for more than 10 years by unionists politicians and commentators for honouring those who took part in the struggle for freedom in Ireland.  This latest attempt, led by Cllr Henry Reilly, to trample over the will of the Ballybot community should be recognised by all councillors as a deliberate attempt to stir community tensions,” Mr Brady said, and he appealed to the Council “to respect the view of the overwhelming majority of the residents of Ballybot that the park which serves their community should retain the name of Raymond McCreesh”.