Fifty-one separate incidents of vandalism and damage to OPW sites over the past year – The Irish Times

The Public Works Office said incidents at many of its sites were a “real, urgent and significant problem” after it emerged vandalism had hit dozens of historic sites over the past year, including damage to “priceless” graves in Co Kilkenny.

Freedom of Information information provided by the OPW indicates 51 incidents involving or involving OPW sites over the past year, some of which have been damaged more than once. Gardaí have been contacted at least 15 times over incidents including extensive damage to St Mary’s Collegiate Church in Gowran, County Kilkenny.

The national monument was first built in the 13th century and features elaborate tombs and effigies. The OPW said it was damaged twice last year — once in late April when someone broke off chunks of tombstones and graves, and again last August when a large chunk of the top of the grave broke off at the Kealty grave.

In both cases, the OPW described the cost of the remedial measures as “unaffordable”.

Many of the relics and sites damaged over the past year have cost hundreds of dollars to repair, although some costs have yet to be determined. One example was a fire at the Gardener’s Shed in Phoenix Park, Dublin, which caused extensive damage to a building valued at €110,000 by the OPW.

At Athassel Abbey in Cashel, Co Tipperary, damage last July meant a stone effigy that was hanging on the wall was left on the ground. Carlow Castle has been damaged in five incidents over the past year, usually involving forced entry and broken locks.

Graves in the megalithic cemetery at Carrowmore in Co Sligo have been damaged on three separate occasions, including having letters scratched into the surface of a capstone. As a result, the Garda began to pass by to make themselves noticeable in the evening and signs with surveillance cameras were put up.


Elsewhere, stonework was stolen at Castle Roche in Co Louth; two fairy tale tablets and benches were burned at Castletown House in Celbridge; Stones were damaged at Loughcrew in Co Meath including an unofficial lock attached to a cairn; and a headstone was smashed into three pieces at St. Mary’s in Callan, Co. Kilkenny.

Just last month, Gardaí began an investigation into vandalism at the ancient Lia Fáil standing stone on the Hill of Tara in Co Meath, where the word “fake” was painted on the 5,000-year-old granite stone that is one of the main attractions at the former seat of the High Kings of Ireland.

The incident was described as “desecration” by Nick Killian, an independent councilor and Cathaoirleach of Meath County Council.

Gardaí said there had been no arrests and the investigation was continuing.

An OPW spokesman said extensive security measures have been put in place at all of the heritage sites it oversees and, where deemed necessary, are proportionate to address “a real, urgent and significant concern”.

“A number of heritage sites, particularly those in rural areas, can often offer unhindered access to the public,” the spokesman said. “Installing security measures in rural settings can be challenging in terms of available infrastructure and the visual and physical impact on the site. As such, physical security measures are not always a viable option.

“The OPW relies on public support for the protection of national heritage in such cases, particularly when reporting damage to monuments, such as the recent vandalism on the Lia Fáil. Public support is essential to fostering a better understanding and understanding of the need to preserve such an essential part of Ireland’s historical setting.” Fifty-one separate incidents of vandalism and damage to OPW sites over the past year – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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