The owner of Skryne Castle in County Meath where hundreds of party-goers attended an illegal rave on St Stephen’s night has told Meath Live he feared a repeat of the Stardust tragedy of 1981 which saw 48 people die in a blaze at a Valentine’s night disco.
And how he scoured the large estate the next morning fearing he would find casualties in a ditch.
He told how he discovered two very scared young girls clinging to each other in the toilets after everyone else had left
Derek Iceson also claimed that there was an appalling lack of leadership for the Gardai who turned up on the night and that the first guard who met him told him the best thing he could do was ‘Go and hide’
And he criticised the Gardai’s actions since the event saying that now almost three weeks later they have still not spoken to his farm manager one of the main witnesses to what happened
And we can reveal for the first time that top Dublin DJ Ryan Redmond was the man spinning the discs on the night.
Punters paid €70 per head to be ferried to the rave in a fleet of taxis and tickets cost €40 each
Iceson also told how he and his staff have subsequently filled a 16-meter skip with items abandoned on the night as revellers raced to the exit after he heroically confronted them
Those included knives, small and large cylinders of laughing gas which ravers inhaled for a short term high.
Still shaken Derek said, ‘I have a tenant in the castle and he sublet it for what was supposedly an Air BnB booking, he didn’t know what it was really for, he wasn’t there on the night and why would he be he thought it was a legitimate booking.
‘I believe the Garda PULSE report on the incident shows that twelve Gardai were tasked to the incident including an Inspector.
‘On the night the first guard that spoke to me advised me to go and hide and from that moment I knew that myself and my wife along with Ivan the farm manager were on our own on dealing with this.
‘Now this is a very old building, packed so full you wouldn’t fit a single sardine more in there with people smoking in there I was petrified the whole place would go up in flames.
‘I hesitate to compare it to the Stardust as people lost loved ones there and I don’t like to bring bad memories back to them but honestly, that was the comparison that flashed across my mind, the thought we could have another Stardust on our hands
‘I went in and bluffed them that the ERU were on their way and so were the drug squad and that saw them head for the exit and I managed to get them out.
‘Four of the hardier lads were the last to leave and one of them tried to barge back in again but I blocked him, for a moment I thought there was going to be a fight but he walked away.
‘I then decided to check that everyone had actually left and was shocked to find two girls trembling with fear in the toilets and I took them to safety.
‘When everyone has gone was the next time we saw a guard and it emerged that two guards were actually sent to the scene and the other ten were blocking any more traffic from getting in at a crossroads a kilometre away.
‘Now it would have made more sense if the bulk of them had been at the Castle itself as the final entrance gate there was the only way anyone could get in.
‘I will put it this strong, in my opinion, there was a distinct lack of leadership among the Gardai on the night and definitely 100% they left us to do the job, of stopping the gig and getting drunk and drugged people out, all by ourselves.
‘I couldn’t sleep that night, probably because the adrenalin was still pumping but also because I was worried about what I might find when I woke up. So I got my dog and went round looking in the hedges and ditches to make sure there wasn’t any bodies there.
‘Now reading these people might think that was an overreaction but trust me it wasn’t I knew everyone had actually left the building, some of them in a very bad way, what I didn’t know until I did that check was had they all left the estate.
‘Two days after the incident I was walking around the yard and my legs just went like jelly, it was delayed shock at everything that went on.’
And now almost three weeks down the line, Derek is finding the apparent lack of urgency in the Garda investigation very frustrating.
‘Ivan our farm manager was there all through the thing and he hasn’t been spoken to yet, in fact, I had to make a series of calls and send a series of emails to Ashbourne station before anyone even came and took a statement from me.
‘It is almost as if they want this to go away, I won’t let that happen, my neighbours were terrified, I have eight tenants in houses in the Castle courtyard and they were scared, I owe it to them to get to the bottom of what went on.