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McCreesh Park court action ends.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

MARKETHILL woman, Bea Worton's High Court case against the naming of Raymond McCreesh Park in Newry has ended - but she retains the right to resurrect the case if a new process does not result in the name being scrapped.

The conclusion to the 89-year-old grandmother's case was confirmed last Thursday following a decision taken by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDC) councillors to review the future of the city centre play park.

Councillors voted on three options as regards the future naming of the park. Those three options were; (1) to keep the park's name, (2) rename it, or (3) leave it in place pending the outcome of a play strategy which includes a proposal to close either that playground or another area.

A majority of 23 representatives backed the third option, recommending a review of the land. The other nine members present at the meeting voted to change to a "neutral" name.

Mrs Worton's son, Colin, claimed the outcome of the case and an award of costs represented a victory for his mother.

Mrs Worton, whose son Kenneth was one of the 10 massacred by the IRA at Kingsmill in 1976, was seeking to judicially review the council for alleged bias or irrationality in naming the park after Raymond McCreesh.

The hunger striker, who died in 1981, was reportedly in possession of a rifle used in the killings when he was captured in 1976.

Last year the Equality Commission told the council it should take a fresh decision on the park.

Consultation on the park's future is set to begin next month, with a final decision expected by April.

At a further hearing last Thursday, it was confirmed that the challenge is to be dismissed on a without prejudice basis, meaning that Mrs Worton can revive her case if the consultation process does not result in the park being taken out of public ownership.

Before ending the hearing, Mr Justice McCloskey stressed the need for local authorities to represent all sections of the community.

Following the hearing, a spokesperson for NMDC said: "Newry, Mourne and Down District Council acknowledges the decision of the High Court... to dismiss the judicial review application relating to the naming of the Raymond McCreesh Play Park in Newry without prejudice, and each party will have liberty to apply, once the council has completed its consideration of this issue.

"Throughout the history of these legal proceedings, the council has remained committed to adherence to its Equality Scheme.

"The council has worked closely with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland to achieve a solution to this difficult issue.

"The council remains committed to review the use and management of the land occupied by Raymond McCreesh Park in line with its council- wide strategic review of play areas in the council area.

"In January 2018 the council will initiate a consultation process relating to the consolidation of its play facilities in the locality and this will culminate in a decision on this issue during 2018."

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