Security patrols have been put in place to guard a Neolithic burial monument in Co Meath after it was vandalised.
The vandalism occurred at the Neolithic burial site at Loughcrew in Oldcastle, Co. Meath. Graffiti was scratched on the stones of various passage tombs.
It is the latest act of vandalism at the national monument site, which is accessible year-round to the public.
The Office of Public Works (OPW) and the National Monuments Service (NMS) in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage said they were “deeply dismayed” by the vandalism.
In response to a pattern of ongoing destructive behaviour at the heritage site, the OPW has hired a security company to carry out a patrol of the hilltop each evening.
Previous incidents of vandalism at the site include the visitor counter and the guides’ hilltop cabin being vandalised, signage being removed and protective fencing, erected to comply with public health restrictions, being torn down.
Anti-social incidents have been notified to gardaí while the OPW and NMS are gathering evidence in order to assist with prosecuting the people responsible for the vandalism.
Minister of State for OPW Patrick O’Donovan said the damage to the site was “mindless vandalism”.
“The Loughcrew cairns are passage tombs of great antiquity. They are part of our cultural inheritance, and I am shocked that some of the ancient carved stones at this heritage site have been recklessly damaged by graffiti.
“I appeal to anybody with information in relation to this incident to contact the local gardaí to help find the culprits,” he said.
Minister O’Donovan added that the OPW and NMS are preparing for a campaign in June to raise awareness of the significance and vulnerability of these monuments.
“I hope to have the opportunity to visit Loughcrew soon and to see for myself some of the most beautiful examples of Neolithic art in Ireland that can be found there,” he said.
Throughout the pandemic, the OPW has kept outdoor heritage sites, parks and gardens open when it was possible to do so in compliance with Covid-19 regulations.
The OPW said that visitors are encouraged to explore and enjoy these sites, while being mindful of social distancing guidelines as well as respectful of the unique value and sensitivity of the historic or natural environment.