NewsNorthern Ireland

Famine site ruined by party teens

Northern IrelandBy Richard Sullivan
Famine site ruined by party teens

Late-night revellers are using a famous famine site for open air booze and drugs parties.

There is growing concern that unless steps are taken to put a block on the rave-type parties at the historically important Mary’s Stile there could a be a fatality.

The Sunday World understands young people come from across Co. Down to congregate at the famine site near the village of Killyleagh.

Revellers travel from as far away as Downpatrick, Castlewellan and Crossgar to the historic Mary’s stile and graveyard in Killyleagh for the open air drug parties.

They have also been congregating within the grounds of the Down Council-owned Bridge Centre in the Co. Down village.

Mary’s Stile is the setting for one of the most famous poems in Irish history. The Lament of the Irish Emigrant was penned by Lady Helen Dufferin, of Helen’s Tower fame, and set in the times of the Irish Famine in the 19th century.

It remains popular with tourists keen to visit the original stone stile and retrace the footsteps of the young bride who died.

Lady Helen died in 1867 and her distraught husband built the famous Helen’s Tower in her memory on the Clandeboy Estate outside Bangor.

The setting for her famous work has become a mecca for a different type of visitor at the weekend... young people partying. The parties are being promoted through social media networks and local sources claim many of the revellers are of school age,

Locals are worried that teenagers as young as 13 are taking cannabis, ecstasy and even crushing up sleeping tablets to take with drink. The stile area is littered with empty beer bottles, cans and plastic bags.

SDLP councillor Terry Andrews confirmed concerned villagers have contacted him.

“I would appeal to young people to think about what they are doing. Villagers are worried we could have a tragedy with the loss of a young person’s life.

“These young people are dicing with death.’’

John Dornan of the Best of Killyleagh group which promotes the village’s history accused the party-goers of a lack of respect.

“This is a graveyard but they don’t seem to care.’’