Outrage at plan for 'lewd' erotic festival at historic Narrow Water Castle in Co Down
Plans to hold an erotic festival at the ancestral home of one of Ireland's best-known landed families have been branded obscene by one of its trustees.
Narrow Water Castle in Co Down is near the Irish border close to where 18 soldiers were killed by the IRA in 1979 in one of the Troubles' bloodiest bombings.
A "sexual freedom" event including hot tubs, massage, rituals, performances and ceremonies is proposed for next month within the grand grounds overlooking Carlingford Lough.
Organisers Bliss Ireland said it hired the venue intending to promote sexual health and pleasure in mind, body and spirit, and added any sex acts would be private.
The former Lord Lieutenant of County Down and one of the venue's trustees, Sir William Hall, has voiced outrage at the prospect.
Sir William said: "Lewdness and lasciviousness will be the theme of this occasion."
Narrow Water has been in the Hall family since 1670. The current Elizabethan revival-style castle is made from local granite and was completed in 1836.
The name became infamous after 18 soldiers were blown up in two bomb explosions on the road outside the property near Warrenpoint.
Now the castle is rented for events including weddings, parties and craft fairs.
According to the Bliss Festival website, ticket holders may be able to take part in panel discussions, workshops, rituals and ceremonies. Its organisers made clear on their website that the event has not been organised by Narrow Water Castle residents nor any member of the Hall family.
"Bliss Ireland has hired the castle...for the sole purposes of holding the festival."
The tenant for life at the castle is Marcus Hall, nephew of Sir William. Marcus Hall has also made clear he has no personal involvement in the organisation or running of any event on the grounds. He has been involved in an unrelated legal dispute with Sir William (right) and his lawyer over fees.
Sir William's solicitor Diane Coulter has written to Northern Ireland's Attorney General John Larkin QC, who advises ministers, the Public Prosecution Service and the PSNI.
He said: "Sex toys will be on sale, talks will be given which may purport to be serious but the real object is the giving of sexual titillation and gratification to the participants in the festival.
"Nudity and acts of sexual intercourse will be prevalent."
According Sir William, organisers have said sex acts will be conducted in the privacy of a tent. Bliss Ireland's website said "hands-on" workshops will be "relatively unobserved".
He claimed: "The notion that the people attending this festival will restrict their lewd behaviour to the privacy of tents and that there will be no abuse of alcohol or drugs is completely fanciful."
Ms Coulter claimed organisers were promoting what inevitably will be a sexual orgy.
She added: "Sir William is outraged that anyone should think that he would lower the name and dignity of the Hall Estate and family name which for centuries has had the highest standing.
"Most of the Hall family agree with Sir William and are extremely annoyed that this obscene festival should sully the Hall Estate and family name."
The Bliss Ireland website said it organised events that aim to foster and promote sexual freedom, health and pleasure in mind, body and spirit.
"The summer festival offers workshops, talks, presentations, performances, rituals, ceremonies, massage and other wellness experiences, delicious food, art, entertainment and much more at a venue immersed in natural beauty for approximately 400 people - all over the age of 18 are welcome irrespective of sexual orientation, gender, relationship status, religious or spiritual beliefs, or practices, ability and age.
"All Bliss Ireland events are free from the recreational use of drugs and alcohol."
The organisation did not respond to requests for further comment.
Newry Ukip councillor Henry Reilly was among those contacted by Hall trustees.
He said: "It is not the sort of event we want our district to be associated with."
He added: "We have been spending a lot on money on presenting the place as wholesome and family-orientated where people can enjoy a family holiday and something like this would not help the reputation of the area."