Northern Ireland news

Saoradh criticised for hunger strike commemoration in council play park

The children's play park in Newry was controversially named after hunger striker Raymond McCreesh. Picture by Mal McCann

PLANS by dissident republican political group Saoradh to hold a hunger strike commemoration in a council-owned play park have been branded "completely inappropriate".

The group intends to commemorate hunger striker Raymond McCreesh at the play park in Newry that was controversially named after him.

The vigil will be held at 2pm on Sunday to mark the 37th anniversary of the IRA man's death.

Saoradh spokesman Stephen Murney said the hunger striker will be remembered "in a dignified and fitting fashion".

"No better place to have this event than in the heart of the community who hold him in such high esteem," he said.

"That's the reason we have decided to hold this event in Ray McCreesh Park. We fully support the Barcroft and Ballybot communities in their campaign to retain the right to name this park after Raymond."

A decision to name the play park after the IRA man has proven controversial, with McCreesh named as being linked to a rifle which was used in the killing of 10 Protestant workmen in the 1976 Kingsmill massacre.

However, his family have denied he was involved in the atrocity.

SDLP policing spokeswoman Dolores Kelly last night described the Saoradh event is a "dreadful exploitation of what is a very sensitive issue".

"I just think this is rubbing victims' noses in it," she said.

"It's completely inappropriate for a children's play park to be used in this manner."

Controversial victims campaigner Willie Frazer called on Newry, Mourne and Down District Council to stop the event.

"Organisers would be well aware of the tension within the area and hurt caused to victims of IRA violence by the continuing debate over the naming of this park," he said.

"I am strongly considering a counter protest on Sunday - the voice of the innocent victims must and will be heard."

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