Greater respect necessary after football incident at Inch Abbey

SIR, — I have just returned from a visit to Inch Abbey, near Downpatrick, which is managed by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. The tranquility of the site was suddenly disturbed by a football being kicked repeatedly and with great force against the ancient chancel wall by a group of around five young men.

They took over the entire section of the Abbey, despite there being in the region of six visiting families exploring the ruins, many of them with young children. I entered the chancel with my family to take photographs and, in do so, challenged the young men to re-think their activities. I pointed out this was an ancient ruin and part of their heritage. 

Their response was entirely disrespectful, but more injurious was their attitude towards this public space. The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs within which the NIEA exists, promotes “sustainability at the heart of a living, working, active landscape valued by everyone”.

These young men showed no value towards the ancient ruins. When I challenged their behaviour, I was met with the words, “we are here every week, I haven’t seen you here before.” My family is based in County Down and in just the space of an hour-and-a-half we saw a number of tourists enjoy the site.

An altercation ensued and drew attention from other individuals, who also challenged the young men. I am absolutely appalled and despairing. I pointed towards my young son and reminded them that they are his role models. They are the next generation coming through to take care of our heritage. 

If any of your readers know this group of young men, who by their own admission visit the site every week, please ask for a conversation with them and encourage them to value and respect their heritage and their elders.

The few remaining majestic walls may not survive the continued abuse week in, week out. It is simply unsustainable and is depreciating this beautifully rich public space. Men of tomorrow, be pillars of your community today, or we will be ourselves left in ruins.

Yours etc,