Newry.ie

Letter to the Editor

In light of recent events surrounding Raymond McCreesh Park, we in Ógra Shinn Féin an Iúir would like to make our position known on the issue - We support keeping the name of the Park as it is!

Newry is awash with reminders of our town’s rich heritage and history. Many of our streets, parks and buildings are named after historically relevant figures – some of whom had strong connections to our town, and some who did not. Many of them have played a part in shaping our city and making it what it is today.

James Connolly Park is situated in Patrick Street. James Connolly, of course, is the widely revered and recognised leading figure in the 1916 Easter Rising with the rank of Commandant General, Dublin Brigade, Army of the Irish Republic.  A native of Edinburgh, he was shot by a British firing squad for his role in trying to overthrow British rule in Ireland.

Raymond McCreesh Park
Raymond McCreesh Park. Photograph: NewRayPics.com

Right next to James Connolly Park, you will find Michael Mallin Park. Mallin was an Irish revolutionary and Socialist who, like his comrade Connolly, took an active role in the Easter Rising of 1916. He met the same fate as the patriot Connolly and was executed by firing squad at Kilmainham Gaol.

Republican and Unionist history and heritage have cohabited peacefully in Newry for many centuries. We want to see this continue. Our town has a number of sites that reflect our unionist heritage. Sites named after British royals, Lords and Earls etc.

Albert Basin, is named after Prince Albert – the German husband of a British queen who presided over the Famine in Ireland. If you walk a little further down the quay, you will come across Victoria Lock – which is named after the above mentioned queen, who, it must be said, holds a less than favourable legacy in Ireland, for her role during An Gorta Mór as “The Famine Queen”.

Not far from Albert Basin is Kilmorey Street – named after the Earls and Viscounts of Kilmorey – titles of which the Needham family have held for centuries and hold to the present day. This family have a bridge named after them in our town as well. Indeed one of the Needham’s was involved in the slaughter of civilians following the Battle of Vinegar Hill in Wexford in 1798.

We could continue, but we hope the point is becoming clear.

There have never been any objections or complaints about any of the aforementioned places named after historically significant figures. However, over the past number of years, a campaign to besmirch the name of local man, Raymond McCreesh has occurred.

Raymond was a highly respected member of the community in Newry/South Armagh. He was a Volunteer soldier of the Irish Republican Army.  He was a man of great convictions who never feared standing up to a ruthless oppressor, like Connolly and Mallin, whom our town rightly honours with street names. Raymond McCreesh made the ultimate sacrifice and selflessly gave his young life on hunger strike defying Britain’s criminalisation policy against our struggle for national sovereignty. The park named in his honour has been proven numerous times to be what the residents of Ballybot want, and how they wish to honour someone who they respect and proudly remember.

We have a right to remember our patriot dead. We have a right to commemorate their sacrifices and we will continue to remember them with dignity. This needs to be understood by those who wish to go against the democratic wishes of the people of Ballybot and the greater Barcroft areas. Raymond McCreesh Park is here to stay, just like Albert Basin is, and Victoria Lock is, because we all have a right to remember and commemorate our history and the people who are part of it.

We understand that unionists might not agree with our view of Raymond. We do not necessarily agree with how our unionist neighbours commemorate and celebrate certain aspects of their culture. Orange Parades marching through our town, bringing it to a standstill several times a year, for hours on end and causing widespread traffic chaos is not exactly something we agree with.

As young Republicans we have witnessed and indeed supported the many efforts at outreach and compromise emanating from our community over the years, which we feel were never reciprocated by our Unionist neighbours. Change has to be a two way process. The reality is that Raymond McCreesh Pk is here to stay because it was democratically fought for.

Raymond McCreesh, our Hero.

From

Ógra Shinn Féin an Iúir

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