So Tom Elliott is pushing for a law making it illegal to name a public place after a terrorist. This follows on the naming of a play-park in Newry after hunger-striker Raymond McCreesh, who died in 1981 along with nine other republican prisoners.
The Prime Minister in the government which refused to accede to the hunger strikers’ demands and effectively ensured their deaths was Margaret Thatcher. You probably remember her. In case you didn’t, there’s a bronze statue to her inside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. She is remembered for many things, including acceding to requests to torpedo the Argentinian cruiser Belgrano, at a time when it was sailing away from British forces and represented no threat to them. A total of 323 Argentinians died on board the Belgrano. In the north of England Margaret Thatcher is well remembered for destroying mining communities with her policy of pit closures. When she died people there held parties.
Another famous British Prime Minister was Winston Churchill. There are statues to him throughout the world, including one outside the BBC Television Centre and one in Parliament Square. Churchill gave the order for the bombing of such German cities as Dresden, in which approximately 135,000 were killed, many of them burnt alive.
There is a road in the Belfast area name Prince Charles Way. Prince Charles is Colonel-in-chief of the Parachute Regiment, which was responsible for the deaths of 11 innocent people in Ballymurphy and a few months later 14 innocent civilians in Derry.
Raymond McCreesh was captured after an attempt to ambush some British soldiers. He was said to be in possession of a weapon that was used in the sectarian killing of 10 innocent Protestant workers at Kingsmill. Whether McCreesh himself was present at the killing of the workers no one knows.
For those who believe that the taking of innocent human life is reprehensible and that those guilty of such deeds should not be honoured in any public way, logic must drive them to be equally strenuous in their efforts to have removed statues to such figures as Churchill and Thatcher. “Ah”, you say “but Thatcher and Churchill weren’t honoured for killing innocent civilians, they were honoured for other great deeds during their lives, like rallying the British people against Nazism and hauling Britain out of the 1980s recession”. True. Just as Raymond McCreesh is honoured, not for his IRA activities but for his courage and conviction that resulted in his death on hunger-strike. But then, that’s no doubt a major reason for Tom Elliott’s campaign against his memory.
A final point. The decision to name the park after McCreesh was taken by a democratic vote in Newry Council. Just as the decision to fly the Union flag on designated days only was taken by a democratic decision in Belfast City Council. Unionist reaction shows how much respect there is for democracy among unionist politicians when it doesn’t deliver the decision they want.