Northern Ireland news

SDLP will discipline Newry councillors if they do not vote for a name change of Co Down playpark

The play park in Newry was named after Raymond McCreesh. Picture by Mal McCann

THE SDLP last night said any of its councillors who fail to support its policy on the naming of a Newry playpark "will automatically face internal party procedures".

The party said its members on Newry, Mourne and Down council are aware of its policy surrounding the naming of a playpark after IRA man Raymond McCreesh and added that action would be taken if they choose to vote against it.

It comes after the SDLP said on Tuesday that councillors should be aware the party "does not support the naming of public spaces after those involved in the violence of the past".

It also said councillors "should bring a motion to rename" the park in Newry if the issue is not resolved.

"The SDLP leadership is crystal clear that this naming was wrong and has caused hurt to victims," it said.

"The councillors are in no doubt from the leadership that if the matter is not resolved in coming weeks via the process parties agreed to, then they should bring a motion to rename."

On Monday, a motion calling for Newry, Mourne and Down council to remove McCreesh's name from the park, failed.

Unionists had put the motion forward, but an amendment by Sinn Féin councillors was accepted instead. It argued that the council should continue with a review into play facilities in the district, as agreed at a meeting in December.

The amendment was supported by all but two of the SDLP members.

The Irish News last night asked the party if it would discipline its councillors on Newry, Mourne and Down council if they do not follow party lines on the contentious issue surrounding the name of the playpark.

In a statement, a spokeswoman said: "The Newry Mourne and Down councillors are aware that if the Play Park Strategy, which is due to report in two weeks, does not recommend the disposal of McCreesh Park then they will support a motion to rename the park, as per party policy.

"Any SDLP councillor who does not support this party policy will automatically face internal party procedures."

Last year three SDLP Belfast councillors were suspended when they abstained from a vote calling for an end of harassment of women outside reproductive rights clinics in Belfast.

The SDLP leadership had instructed its City Hall group to support the motion, which its other four councillors did.

But Pat Convery, Declan Boyle and Kate Mullan abstained and were suspended for "breaching party discipline".

They later quit the party, accusing Colum Eastwood of a lack of leadership, and continue to sit on the council as independents.

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