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Wednesday 19 December 2018

How we feared for our lives at Oxegen . . . festival-goers relive their nightmare

Edel Kennedy

THE organisers of Oxegen have come under fire after concert-goers said they feared for their lives at the outdoor event.

Despite being heralded as a resounding success by MCD, allegations of goings-on at the two-day concert include:

* Tents being set on fire.

* Unprovoked attacks on bystanders.

* A lack of security guards on hand at campsites.

Many furious fans posted details of their experiences on the Oxegen website.

However, MCD removed the messages a number of hours after being contacted by the Irish Independent.

Refused

MCD also refused to answer a number of questions put to it by this newspaper, including details of how many security guards were on duty.

"MCD are ecstatic with the success of the event, as are the gardai and Kildare County Council," said MCD spokesman Justin Green.

In a statement, he also went on to say: "We must warn you that in the event that an article critical of the event is published, we will take whatever action is necessary to prevent damage to the Oxegen event or MCD Productions."

However, a number of people who contacted the Irish Independent said they were left shaken from their experiences, mainly confined to Campsite A.

Sophie Merry, who camped with her boyfriend Brian McCafferty, said she would never return.

"I feared for my life when we were there," she said.

"If my boyfriend hadn't been there I wouldn't have stayed in the tent with another girl. We wouldn't have been safe. . . It was like a third-world country."

Gardai in Naas said although they were aware of some fires being lit in the campsites, it was up to the fire services and security guards to deal with them while the gardai dealt with other criminal incidents.

About 180 gardai were on duty for the weekend on the 550-acre site, with 60 confined to traffic duty. Others were assigned to monitioring bars or to patrol.

Michael Fitzsimons, chief fire officer in Newbridge, said it was the duty of the organisers and their employees to deal with the fires on campsites.

He added he had heard reports of trouble in the campsites, saying that he would be "a little concerned about what went on on the Sunday night".

"We will be contacting them next year (the organisers) and asking for increased surveillance on the Sunday night," he said.

Feeling

He added that there was a general feeling that events on the Sunday night were "not as satisfactory as they should have been".

Niall Power, a DJ on South East regional station Beat FM, said his group of friends left early because of the trouble. Despite a gang of 12 people in their mid-to-late 20s, he said they were too scared to hang around.

"We left everything and got out at 5 on Monday morning because it was so dangerous," he said.

One man who rang Liveline on RTE last week said the girls in his group were also terrified.

'Kevin' said they were forced to move tents on Sunday night after fold-up chairs were thrown and punched holes in their tent and added that the security "wasn't very adequate".

When asked by presenter Derek Davis if he would return next year, he replied: "I don't think I would because all of the girls were very very distressed."

Recalling the event, he said there was "fire everywhere" and "smoke all over the place" when they got up in the middle of Sunday night to move tents. They later met a young man whose hand had been burnt when his tent was set on fire with him in it.

One 20-year-old from Clonmel, Co Tipperary, said he returned to his tent on Monday morning to find it alight with his girlfriend asleep inside.

The majority of people said the concert arena was very well organised and had improved on last year. They said the problems were concentrated in particular campsites.

"No one is slating the line-up," said Liz Power from Waterford city.

""If they want to keep going with Oxegen they're going to have to do something about the campsite next year."

According to Ryan's Cleaning Event Specialist, who were hired to clean up the site after the two-day event, four out of five tents had been abandoned after the event.

There were 50 arrests and 370 minor drug seizures at the event.

MCD refused to give details of how many security personnel were on duty for the event.

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