SDLP old guard reject Newry party support for McCreesh playground

Just a footnote on the flags exchanges from the Commons yesterday which suggests that the SDLP might have a flicker of independent life left in it  when it appeals to old decencies.  What we might call a creative split in the party occurred over  the naming of the Patrick St playground in Newry after Raymond McCreesh  which – my fault – I hadn’t noticed in local coverage before Mick’s  pointed post. Irritatingly report after report  simply lifted what reads like a local corr’s copy that:

Twenty nationalist councillors, including two independents, voted to uphold the decision to grant the application for the renaming. Five voted against (one DUP, three UUP and 1 UKIP), SDLP councillor Frank Feely abstained.

Nobody bothered  to dig an inch deeper  and give us the tally or party breakdown of the vote or tell us that there are on Newry and Mourne city council  14 Sinn Fein councillors, 9 SDLP councillors and  two  nationalist independents, as well as 5 assorted unionists. They did manage to record the sole SDLP abstainer the veteran figure of Frank Feeley, a member of the 1973 Assembly and the first mayor of the city, who received Newry’s royal charter from the Queen.  It was a relief to see Alex Attwood’s stance which was in character and does him credit . And so to the Commons where the last leader but one bluntly rejected the Newry party’s line in the UK’s main forum.

Mark Durkan Does the Secretary of State recognise that in circumstances where Northern Ireland will be moving towards having 11 new councils under a carve-up determined by Sinn Fein and the DUP, there is a danger that the whole issue of flags being determined at council level will be played out in those new council chambers in a very difficult and dangerous way? Does she further recognise that there needs to be real dialogue among all parties about how we handle and manage that situation, in relation not only to flags but to the sensitive issue of the naming of public amenities run by councils, including play spaces, which in my view should be neutral and apolitical?

It’s bound to be a concern that those who are ploughing a distinct furrow on the issue are veterans of the SDLP’s ascendancy. Any sign of a Newry rethink?


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  • iluvni

    Nothing from Mrs Richie though.
    Still, she was vociferous about David Healy having a playing field named after him.

  • Henry94

    I can’t get my head around the Newry decision. If that’s republicanism you can keep it.

  • socaire

    Any trouble ,Henry, getting your head round the Lisburn monument to the disgraced UDR? Oh sorry! I forgot those gunmen were hired and paid by the British Army.

  • Mick Fealty

    See whataboutery on Google. Or, as my dear late mother used to say, “if I stick my hand in the fire would do it too?”

  • GavBelfast

    Mark Durkan …another good and capable guy who is missed on the more local stage.

    Maybe double-jobbing wasn’t so bad after all?

    There is a seemingly complete inability here for people to put themselves in others’ shoes, even though to do so would often be better for them – and longer term objectives? – too.

    I know that, in 1994, the near-end to maybe 100 people dying, hundreds more injured, and widespread destruction every year might have been something we would mostly all have bitten-the-hand-off for.

    But, it now seems incomplete, wholly unsatisfactory and actually really unpleasant.

    But, what do do?

  • Mc Slaggart

    Mick Fealty (profile) 12 December 2012 at 1:59 pm
    “See whataboutery on Google.”

    That would be Matthew 5:38.

  • Zig70

    This is nothing in terms of the SDLP, the vote would have passed anyway as SF had the majority. I don’t like the decision but it is SF that should be rounded on and this fleg dispute is marked by the lack of politcal complaints in SF direction. SDLP vote would suffer in Newry if they get into nationalist in fighting, I think they should have abstained but either way their hand was mute.

  • Henry94


    Any trouble ,Henry, getting your head round the Lisburn monument to the disgraced UDR? Oh sorry! I forgot those gunmen were hired and paid by the British Army.

    I think we should judge our own side by our own standards and not look for excuses in the behavior of anyone else. I’m happy for the hunger strikers to be commemorated but we should do it in a way that is in keeping with republican principles.

  • Ruarai


    it’s not helpful to confuse “whataboutery” – a tactic for changing the subject – with illustrations of relevant hypocrisy.

    A much more constructive approach to this whole episode (date episode as you like) would be for commentators in the local papers who fancy themselves as “moderates” to chart out instances of where their own representatives have fallen short and/or could make magnanimous gestures.

    There’s absolutely no point in Brian Walker, Alex Kane and so on crying ‘where are the SDLP moderates?!” without giving examples of what “moderation” could look like.

    Brain, fair?

    The SDLP made a big mistake in Newry, no question. But I’m sure they find it increasinly difficult to make the case for moderation when they have no partner meeting them on the road. That doesn’t excuse it but it is the context we’re in. A context we can only escape if people start behaving in a moderate and other-orientated fashion, create a shared space.

    Instead, the basic approach of political unionism so far as I can see is that nationalism per se is provocative and moderation means Nationalism should knock it off a bit and start embracing a British Northern Ireland. If that’s where we are – we’re nowhere.

  • ayeYerMa

    The media coverage of this event has been interesting and gives a good indication as to who has made it to the top in some of our local media.

    The Newsletter reports gave a complete breakdown, yet it was often not until after the event had happened until we saw reports from either the BBC or Belfast Telegraph, both of whom glossed over any SDLP involvement.

  • Granni Trixie

    In politics there often is tension between what is advantageous at local level and how a decision can impact on a political party. That is why a party must develop a framework of principles, policies and values which they expect their representatives to be guided by.

    I think that the decision in Newry was insistent with SDLPs approach generally and could hurt them. However I think it is key for a party to learn from when someone goes off message.

  • Granni Trixie

    Oops ..ought to have said inconsistent with SDLPs approach.

  • Sigh… and I thought the BBC was non prejudicial (Or ex-BBC in this case)

    “which suggests that the SDLP might have a flicker of independent life left in it when it appeals to old decencies.”

  • Framer

    Granni – might it not be better then for Alliance to have voted to retain the status quo in Belfast – unless their principles demand neutrality?
    They could still change their minds.
    The SDLP vote in Newry on McCreesh of Kingsmills was inexcusable but will be excused for decades to come.

  • Framer

    Granni – might it not be better then for Alliance to have voted to retain the status quo in Belfast – unless their principles demand neutrality?
    I doubt they would have sought or voted for the union flag to come down 90% of the time over the Olympic stadium.
    They could still change their minds.
    The SDLP vote in Newry on McCreesh of Kingsmills was inexcusable but will be excused for decades to come.

  • Zig70

    Alex Attwood not taking care of the people in his own party is why he shouldn’t be leader. Aside from the fact he sounds like a priest.

  • BlackBush

    I honestly can’t help thinking if Ballymena, Lisburn or Castlereagh councils had named a play park after a loyalist terrorist it would have made the National headlines, the fact that the unionist electorate in any of these areas would abhor any such thing means it could never happen. There’s no doubt the SDLP in areas like Newry are so desperate for votes they will sink to any depths, this will damage them in the North East of NI where they do get Unionist transfers. Newry is in danger of becoming a bit of a pariah over this, on the one hand ads on TV trying to present itself as a pleasant modern shopping destination and on the other hand naming play parks after a convicted terrorist, it’ll be interesting to see if things like this hit the local economy.

  • Granni Trixie

    Framer:Voting for flying the flag on designated days in BC Hall was Alliances way of recognising nationalist aspirations AND unionist/British reality.
    It is consistent with value for compromise as a way to promote a shared society.,So no matter how difficult unionists make life for Alliance I personally admire the guts of APNI
    Councillors in BCC.

  • Brian Walker


    You ask what is “moderation” about?

    To do the right thing on merit,without conditions.

    If that isn’t possible to avoid doing the wrong thing.

    Do what Frank Feeley did and abstain. Would that have meant political annihilation?

  • jagmaster

    As a Newry resident I have to say that this play park name issue should have being handled a lot more sensitively than what has transpired. In saying that however I feel that a lot of Unionist commentators are being disingenuous with their comments in a bid to gain political capital.

    The play park is situated very close to Barcroft Park, a staunchly Nationalist area. Even if the park had being given in their eyes a non offensive name would they really want to go there with their kids? The park itself consists of only a few swings a slide and a roundabout all set in tarmac. It’s quite pathetic actually when compared to modern play areas and highlights the discrepancy in investment in towns and cities outside Belfast.

    Perhaps NMDC could try to counter the bad publicity by building a modern up to date play area close to the city centre and giving it a boring generic name.

  • GoldenFleece

    Jagmaster, it is beside the point that it is in a Nationalist area.

    Will a family from the protestant persuasion or from Britain feel comfortable moving there when a play park is named after a man possessing a gun.

    Likewise would a catholic family feel comfortable moving into an area with UVF flags on the lamposts?

    All these actions do is to ensure that nationalist areas stay nationalist and unionist areas stay unionist.

    I cannot say that SF and the SDLP are serious about a shared future with these actions.

  • Gopher

    I prefer the dispassionate view, though I do believe in Durkans sincerity. Durkan understands that you have to maintain daylight between the SDLP and SF something that seems to be lost on the rest of the Party. Durkan will get tactical votes the SDLP constituency by constituency continues to throw transfers and assembly seats away.