A FEATURE ON the world famous Hill of Tara was badly vandalised last night.
During the incident, two tins of thick gloss paint were poured over the Lia Fáil.
The Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny) is believed to have played an important part in Kingship rituals.
When the rightful king placed his foot on the stone it is said to have called out his name, declaring him High King of Ireland. It was said to have originally been positioned next to the Mound of the Hostages, the Neolithic passage tomb at Tara, and was moved to its current position on top of the Forradh in 1824 in commemoration of the 1798 Rebellion.
Some time between 5pm yesterday evening and 10am this morning, someone accessed the site carrying two tins of thick gloss paint (one red and one green). They seemingly ignored the rest of the monuments on the hill and went straight for the Lia Fáil, emptying first the red, then the thick green paint over the stone pillar.
Given the circumstances, it appears that it may have been premeditated, though it is hard to understand any reasons why someone would commit this appalling act of vandalism.
The Office of Public Works said it abhors and condemns the vandalism, adding that the damage is being assessed.
Minister Jimmy Deenihan also expressed his outrage.
I condemn in the strongest terms the damage that has been caused to one of our most iconic ancient monuments. This act of mindless vandalism, on one of our premier archaeological sites, is truly shameful.
This same stone pillar was vandalised two years ago. During that 2012 attack, someone struck it a number of times with a hammer. It is still unclear whether the two cases are related.
This is one of a number of cases of theft and vandalism that have affected Irish heritage sites in recent years. One of the best things about Ireland for visitors is the sheer openness of our historical sites, unlike some other countries where they are kept under lock and key, inaccessible throughout the year.
Attacks like these puts this openness in severe jeopardy, if they continue the only answer would be to protect the sites with higher levels of security.
This may have significant detrimental consequences to tourism – Failte Ireland statistics show that in 2012, two thirds (65%) of visitors claimed that heritage/culture was the key motivation in visiting Ireland.
Our heritage sites are incredibly strong economic, educational and spiritual assets. The Hill of Tara itself was described by William Butler Yeats, George Moore and Douglas Hyde as ‘probably the most consecrated spot in Ireland’, and today it attracts large numbers of visitors from all over the world.
It remains as one of the most instantly recognisable and significant archaeological landscapes in Ireland.
The Lia Fáil will need to be thoroughly assessed in order to develop the safest plan for removing the paint and restoring the stone without damaging it any further.
If anyone was on the Hill of Tara or in the general area, between 5pm yesterday evening and 10am this morning and if you saw anything out of the ordinary or suspicious please do get in touch with Navan Garda Station on 046-9079930.
Neil Jackman is an archaeologist and contributor to TheJournal.ie. You can discover great heritage sites and places on Neil’s blog, Time Travel Ireland. All photographs © Neil Jackman /abartaaudioguides.com
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