Northern Ireland news

Children's play park hosts black flag vigil to commemorate death of IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh

Supporters attending a republican gathering at Raymond McCreesh play park in Newry. PictureCliff Donaldson.
John Monaghan

Dissident republican political group Saoradh have held a commemoration at a children's play park in Newry to mark the 37th anniversary of the death of IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.

Supporters gathered at the council-owned Raymond McCreesh play park, with black flags and photos of the IRA prisoner, to remember his death on May 21, 1981 at the age of 24.

The name of the play park was retained in 2015 amidst a council row and has been the subject of intense political and legal wrangling over the last decade, with a unionist motion to rename it rejected in December last year.

When arrested in 1976, McCreesh was reportedly in possession of a rifle used in the sectarian Kingsmill Massacre, in which ten Protestant men were murdered as they were returning from work.

Prior to the event, DUP Newry and Armagh MLA William Irwin and victims campaigner William Frazer were among those who had urged the council to intervene and stop the commemoration.

Stephen Murney, from Saoradh, told the assembled crowd that the group had not sought permission but added that "republicans commemorating their dead in their own communities should not offend anyone".

"There are a plethora of monuments and streets in Newry named after numerous colonial figures, republicans and nationalists could very easily take offence and demand that they be renamed and removed......but we haven't," he said.

"We have not asked permission from Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (or anyone else for that matter) because we are not obliged to.

"Raymond McCreesh Park is a public park. It is owned by the people, it belongs to the public and the people are proud to have it named after Raymond McCreesh. Such gatherings do not need to seek permission," added Mr Murney.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Newry and Armagh MLA Conor Murphy attended a separate wreath-laying ceremony at McCreesh's graveside in Camlough on Sunday morning.

The Newry and Armagh MP, Sinn Féin's Mickey Brady, will speak at another event tonight in the play park to commemorate the anniversary.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access