Raymond McCreesh play park: Council and Equality Commission’s decision goes to judicial review

The ongoing saga of the Raymond McCreesh play park took another turn yesterday. Bea Wotton the now 88 year old mother of one of the IRA victims at Kingsmills was granted leave for a Judicial Review of the decision to name a play park in Newry after McCreesh.

The park was named after the IRA Hunger Striker (who was arrested in possession of one of the weapons used in the Kingsmills murders) in 2001. In 2014 the Equality Commission ruled that the naming was in breach of the Council’s Equality Scheme and recommended it review the decision. The council submitted a further report to the Equality Commission, voted to keep the name and the Equality Commission decided to take no further action – issuing a statement on this at the time.

From the News Letter:

Mr Justice Maguire ruled that the challenge should proceed to a full hearing on claims that the Commission was in breach of Section 75 requirements (which requires public authorities to promote good relations between those of differing religious backgrounds or political opinion).

He also held that an arguable case had been established against the Council over allegations its decision was irrational, unreasonable, pre-determined or biased.
Rejecting claims the case should be thrown out due to delay, he said: “There’s a matter of public interest involved in this particular decision.”
Mrs Worton, who attended court for the hearing, expressed her delight at the outcome.
“I’m glad the case is going on because that man (McCreesh) wasn’t even from Newry,” she said.
“Why didn’t they name the park after some VIP that really deserved it – I feel sickened that they named it after him.”

A judicial review of the decisions of an unelected Quango seems entirely appropriate. However, as I have mentioned previously, although I would be wholly in favour of renaming the play park, the extent to which judicial decisions are used or attempted to be used to overrule democratic decisions (or indeed in an attempt to force politicians to make decisions) is at times troubling.

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