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SDLP to vote against Raymond McCreesh park name

SDLP council group leader Colin McGrath has said the party will vote to change the name of the Raymond McCreesh Park
John Monaghan

THE SDLP group leader on Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has said his party will support a motion to re-name the Raymond McCreesh play park.

The motion, which proposes changing the name back to St Patricks Play Area, is to be debated by the council on July 6th.

It marks a divisive beginning to life for the new council, after rows about the use of Irish above English on council signage.

The Newry Democrat said that 10 councillors from the Ulster Unionists, DUP, UKIP and Alliance have submitted the proposal.

Named after the former IRA hunger striker in 2001, following a survey of local residents living around the park, the issue has returned to the debating chamber on several occasions since.

Sinn Fin is against a name change, meaning the vote of the SDLPs 14 councillors will prove decisive.

That is if the SDLPs councillors agree on a united front.

A vote in February on Newry and Mourne District Council saw one SDLP councillor abstain, while eight of his colleagues did not attend the meeting.

It caused embarrassment for the SDLP, whose party policy is against naming public spaces after anyone involved in paramilitary or state violence.

In March the partys group voted in unison in favour of having a fresh debate on the issue, and it now appears that all of its councillors will vote to re-name the play park.

Speaking to The Irish News yesterday, Colin McGrath, SDLP group leader on the council and formerly a councillor on Down District Council, said that elected representatives should "be working to reduce any controversy."

"This is a childrens park. It is a park which is open to all; it is a public space for all children. I dont think it is a positive issue for children to be involved in. Therefore we need to be careful with what we do," he said.

Asked whether SDLP headquarters would be moving to ensure that local councillors attended and voted on the issue this time around, Mr McGrath said he was "not aware" of such a move and added he "didnt see any reason for it."

He added: "In terms of a group we will be supporting it and working together. If we feel there are wider implications we will discuss it with the party."

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