5,000-year-old Hill of Tara stone vandalised
By Elaine Keogh
A 5,000-year-old standing stone has been vandalised on the Hill of Tara in Co Meath.
The Lia Fáil granite piece, also known as the Stone of Destiny, was apparently damaged with a heavy object, possibly a hammer.
Culture Minister Jimmy Deenihan said the damage to the national monument amounted to a "mindless act of vandalism".
In recent days, it was noticed the stone had been struck with a heavy object and fragments of it had broken off.
Archaeologist Conor Newman, chairman of the Heritage Council, described the attack as "shocking".
The stone is one of the main attractions at the former seat of the High Kings of Ireland.
Legend has it the Stone of Destiny would roar with joy when touched by the rightful king of Tara.
An inspection by an archaeologist with the National Monuments Service has concluded it was struck with a hammer or similar instrument at 11 separate places "on all four faces of the stone".
It appeared the fragments of the stone which were chipped off had been removed as they were not visible nearby.
The National Monuments Service has reported the suspected vandalism to the Garda.
The minister yesterday said: "Vandalism, by definition, is a mindless act.
"The national monuments at Tara, which include this standing stone, are nationally and internationally renowned.
"These monuments are a fundamental part of our shared heritage and history, and I condemn in the strongest terms the damage that has been caused to this monument."
Dr Newman, meanwhile, who also directed the Discovery Programmes work at Tara, said: "This is shocking and it indicates the degree of trust you need when it comes to heritage matters in Ireland, because so many of our sites are out in the open air. They cannot be policed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and we rely an enormous amount on the public and visitors to behave appropriately."
The department is looking at ways to increase surveillance at monuments.
The minister urged "all people to respect and appreciate the importance of our national monuments and to keep a watchful eye on any in their locality".
A spokesperson for the Office of Public Works said: "While we cannot be certain about what exactly happened at the stone, it does appear to be an act of wanton vandalism.
"The OPW is saddened by the damage carried out at one of the most important national monuments in the country.
"The OPW would urge all members of the public to respect these important and historic monuments at all times."
Navan-based Superintendent Michael Devine said an investigation was under way.
Posted by moss
14th June 2012ce