A sick proposal to rename a children’s play park after the leader of an infamous loyalist murder gang has been branded “totally unacceptable”.
At a meeting of Newtownabbey Council’s Leisure Committee on Monday evening (September 2), members were asked to consider a request from New Mossley Community Group that the name of the play park at Ballyearl Drive be changed to the ‘Prince William Play Area’. However, during the discussion members were informed that two other suggestions had been put forward - one of which was to name the park after UVF man Lenny Murphy, leader of the notorious Shankill Butchers gang which brutally murdered more than 20 people during the 1970s.
It’s understood that the other proposal was to call the park the ‘UVF Recreational Centre’.
Some members suggested that the proposals had come in response to a park in Newry being named after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh - a man linked to the 1976 Kingsmills massacre in which 10 Protestant workmen were killed.
However, councillor John Scott, who was chairing the meeting, commented: “We really don’t want to stoop to that level.”
Alderman Billy Ball said that a more timely suggestion would be to name the park after the Royal family’s newest arrival, Prince George.
Members agreed that the council should carry out a consultation exercise in the estate to gauge public opinion regarding the proposed name change.
Speaking after the meeting, councillor Scott added: “I’m more than happy for it to be called the Prince William Play Area, if that’s what people in the estate want. But I don’t want us to stoop to the low level of certain other areas where play parks have been named after terrorists.”
Chair of New Mossley Community Group, Jack Shaw confirmed that a number of suggestions were made for the renaming of the play area, but that some of them were “unacceptable”.
“This was a direct response to what happened in Newry with the park there being named after an IRA man,” he told the Times. “It was a small number of individuals in the area who came to us with these suggestions and they are totally unacceptable to the community. We said that we needed to look at it so that the proposal was something that the whole community could get behind.
“We did some consultation with the local community and people are all for calling it the Prince William Play Area.”
The PUP man added: “The community is delighted that the council looks like it is going to go ahead with the name change. People think it’s a great idea.
“Whatever the park is called, the most important thing is that the children have a safe place where they can play and have fun - a park that they can enjoy.”
It’s understood the council’s consultation exercise will take place during the last two weeks of September and will involve questionnaires being circulated to residents who live in the vicinity of the play area, and a feedback form being placed on the council’s website.
The outcome of the consultation process will be reported to a future meeting of the Leisure Committee before councillors take a final decision on the issue.
Monday night’s meeting was told that the consultation exercise will cost “very little”, but that erecting new signage at the park could cost £500.