04 June 2006

Fury at plans to name park after IRA man

Sunday Life

04 June 2006

A CONTROVERSIAL move is underway to name a council-owned park in Downpatrick after a dead IRA commander.

Sinn Fein is claiming that an all-party commitment by members of Down District Council to rename a sports pitch in Newcastle after former Ulster Unionist council chairman the late Gerry Douglas should result in "equality" for republicans.

And they want to name part of the Town Park in Downpatrick after IRA leader Colum Marks.

Marks (29) was shot dead by undercover RUC officers in the park, at St Patrick's Avenue in the town, in April 1991.

A fully-primed horizontal mortar was found nearby.

Sinn Fein vice-chairman of the council, Eamonn Mac Con Midhe, said that, before the current four-year term of the council ends, his party intends bringing forward a proposal to name the park after Marks.

Mr Mac Con Midhe said: "I have already warned councillors.

"Once the sports pitch in Newcastle is renamed, we will be seeking equity for the community I represent."

He said that, since the council had agreed to the joint-SDLP/Ulster Unionist motion to posthumously honour Mr Douglas, they should not be surprised when they get a request on behalf of local residents to name the park after Marks.

"People already refer to this park as 'Collie Marks Park'.

"Now that we are in a post-conflict scenario, many tourists visit the site to pay their respects.

"If necessary, we will get signatures around the town to prove and support our case."

But DUP councillor Billy Walker warned: "It won't be happening.

"To compare Gerry Douglas - a man who served all sections of the community as a councillor for more than 20 years before his death - with an IRA terrorist, is contemptible."

The spot where Marks was shot is already marked with a monument, which also carried the names of other IRA members who died in the area.

Unionists have failed in previous attempts to have it removed from council-owned land.

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