Underage drinking could end in tragedy parents are warned

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Hundreds of underage drinkers transformed two of Derry’s most prominent green spaces into open air drinking dens over the weekend, prompting warnings that a young person will die if parents are not more vigilant.

Balmy May weather attracted scores of teenagers to impromptu gatherings in the Bogside and Ballymagroarty on Saturday and Sunday, turning parts of both areas into dump sites.

Councillors and residents have called on parents to exercise responsibility following the congregation of mass drinking parties below the Derry Walls and in the Marianus Glen area between Ballymagroarty and Hazelbank.

According to residents one extremely drunk young girl was left abandoned and vulnerable in a field following a drinking session in the North of the city.

Meanwhile, a young boy was taken to hospital after “taking something and freaking out” on the slopes, just below the historic Derry Walls as tourists looked on aghast.

One Bogside resident, who asked not to be named, said young people descended on the area from 4.00pm on Saturday onwards and didn’t disperse until a “mini-riot” took place over four hours later.

“They’re gathering at the banking. It’s something that’s been happening for years, with all the anti-social behaviour, underage drinking and drug taking, that goes with it,” claimed the resident.

“They arrive in cars and some parents are dropping them off.

“There was one guy and he must have taken something as he freaked out. His friends were holding him down and he was refusing to get into the ambulance.

“Local councillors, or whoever, need to implement a ‘no drink zone’ up there near the Walls.

“Tourists are coming down off the Walls into the Bogside, and this is what they see.

“There was a guy there this morning [Monday] and he has filled four or five black bags with beer cans and bottles.

“I’d say there were 200 people gathered all along the banking from Lower Fahan Street as far as the Long Tower with different groups of 20 here and 20 there.

“They only dispersed after a mini-riot when the police arrived at around 8.30pm.”

Also, at the weekend, a similar scenario was unfolding in Ballymagroarty.

Sinn Féin Councillor for the area Eric McGinley has called on parents from throughout the city to ensure that their children are not gathering to drink in the Marianus Glen area.

He said: “There have been concerning reports that a number of teenagers - some as young as 13 years of age - have been gathering and drinking in Marianus Glen between the Ballymagroarty and Hazelbank estates.

“On one occasion over the weekend residents witnessed a young girl in the field who was highly intoxicated with the potential for a real tragedy all too evident. PSNI have also been called to the area on numerous occasions over the weekend.

“Residents have also been in contact with Sinn Féin representatives in the area to report the theft of wheelie bins by young people who then went on to set the bins on fire.

“Unfortunately, the good weather has brought with it the temptation to drink alcohol outside and it is a real concern that young teenagers are obtaining access to carry-outs.

“I would appeal to parents to ensure that they are fully aware of their children’s whereabouts and to warn these young teenagers of the many dangers which exist when consuming alcohol.

“I would also caution adults who may be approached to purchase alcohol on behalf of children not to contribute to this serious problem.”

Meanwhile, there were further outbreaks of anti-community behaviour in the Bogside on Sunday.

Sinn Féin Councillor Colly Kelly said a gang of youths lit a small bonfire at the bottom of the Lecky Road flyover.

“Around 7pm on Sunday night a small group of young people threw a couple of wooden pallets onto the roadway at the narrow section at the bottom of the Flyover and set them on fire. This meant any traffic travelling down Flyover had to do a u turn and go back up the hill again.

Motorists and local residents are sick sore and tired of this carry-on. It’s sad to see that a very small minority are intent on wrecking and breaking,” he said.