An incident where a large Sinn Féin banner was unfurled at a State heritage site for use in a political video has been referred to the gardaí.
Patrick O'Donovan, Minister of State for the Office of Public Works (OPW) – the agency which manages the site in Co Donegal – condemned the incident as "completely inappropriate".
The banner, which said "A United Ireland is for Everyone – Let's talk about it", included Sinn Féin's logo and was placed at the centre of the Grianán of Aileach ringfort in Co Donegal, with a video shared on social media.
A similar video featured the Hill of Tara in Co Meath, though whether a banner was actually placed there or if it is footage of the heritage site that has been altered to include the banner is unclear.
The OPW operates both sites and its policy does not allow their use for promoting political messaging. It says it has contacted Sinn Féin asking it to discourage such behaviour in future.
Mr O’Donovan said: “The use of Ireland’s national monuments and heritage sites for political purposes is completely inappropriate and this incident should not have occurred.”
The Fine Gael Minister added: "The OPW's guidelines are clear that no filming of a political nature is permitted and the matter has been referred to the gardaí."
A Sinn Féin spokesman said: “The members involved were not aware of any restrictions in place in relation to photography at the site. The local organisation has been notified of these.” He did not clarify if a real banner had been placed at the Hill of Tara or whether the it was an altered image of the heritage site that was circulated online.
An OPW statement said: “An Garda Siochána are aware of the incident at Grianán of Aileach.
“The OPW are not aware of any persons placing a similar banner at the Hill of Tara. The image in a tweet currently in circulation may be a stock image of the Hill of Tara which has been altered to include the banner.”
It also said: “There is a long-standing OPW policy in place that such sites should not be used for any form of advertising or promotion, including political messaging.
“A review of permissions applications indicates that permission was not sought or issued for this activity.”
The statement said: “This Office has no information on the individuals who placed the banners on these sites, but the logo of a political party was visible in both images.
“The OPW has written to the party and has asked for any assistance it could give in discouraging such behaviour in future in order to prevent others following this example and to protect heritage sites from the added risk of being damaged in some way.”