The announcement that the SDLP is to discipline any of it’s councillors that refuse to vote for Raymond McCreesh Park in Newry to be renamed will come as no surprise to Republicans.
Activists in the area are well accustomed to the Castle Catholic attitude of this party, with the anniversary of local IRA Volunteer Colum Marks this week immediately bringing to mind Eddie McGrady of the SDLP saying that his shoot-to-kill murder was “a job well done”.
With this revelation the SDLP, while claiming to be a non-sectarian party that has inherited the civil rights movement’s ethos, has again showed itself up to be the pro-establishment party it really is. While their leadership refuses to wear Easter Lilies, they wear poppies. While they refuse to attend Republican commemorations, they attend those organised by the Royal British Legion. While supporting the censorship of Republicans, they encourage British Army recruitment in schools. While saying armed groups should be consigned to the past, they have supported both the RUC and PSNI for decades – the largest armed group of all.
Now their duplicity has extended to the naming of public places. While the SDLP leadership failed to back one of it’s own councillors who opposed the naming of a leisure centre in Newtownards after SAS mercenary Blair Mayne, they have now decided to embark on a criminalisation agenda against the H-Block Martyr and IRA Volunteer Raymond McCreesh.
Why are the SDLP leadership not campaigning for the renaming of a multitude of landmarks across the Six Counties that are named after imperial and colonial figures? Their inconsistency is striking.
Using Belfast as an example, there are streets, hospitals, sporting grounds, parks and other publicly owned amenities that the SDLP have no issue with. These include Royal Victoria Hospital, Albert Clock, Queen Elizabeth Gardens, Victoria Park, Chichester Street, Great Victoria Street. Even Ravenhill, the home of the nine-county Ulster Rugby side, has a large British Army memorial inside – all of which is seemingly acceptable to the SDLP.
The people of Barcroft and Ballybot have been consistently supportive of the name Raymond McCreesh Park. The people of Newry are overwhelmingly in support of the name. They recognise the reality that Raymond McCreesh was a hero. A revolutionary. A blanketman. An IRA Volunteer. A man who gave up his life for his friends, opposing criminalisation by giving up his life – and now the SDLP seek to felon set him in death.
The SDLP is dying. Losing support rapidly, even in their traditional heartlands where they were bolstered by the anti-Republican rants of prominent clergy. Their elected membership is abandoning them. Their party is rudderless, counting down the days to either amalgamation with a Free State establishment party against the wishes of many senior members, or simply shutting up shop. Their search for relevance sees them take contrary positions based on location rather than ideological consistency.
In a few short years, if not sooner, the SDLP will be a thing of the past while the legacy of Raymond McCreesh will live on through those of us who share his revolutionary ethos.
And due to the commitment and dedication of residents and activists, including the thriving Saoradh craobh in the area, Óglach Raymond McCreesh Park will still be there too.
With many thanks to: Saoradh An lúir