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FactCheck: No, Clones' High Cross is not being moved 'because of Muslims'

False claims on social media have suggested that Monaghan County Council is moving the cross to appease the Muslim community.

The Celtic High Cross in Clones, Co. Monaghan.
The Celtic High Cross in Clones, Co. Monaghan.
Image: Andreas F. Borchert/Clones-Town.com

CLAIMS THAT A Celtic High Cross in Co. Monaghan is being relocated because it ‘offends’ Muslims have gained traction in the last two weeks and sparked Islamophobic comments on social media.

The cross, which dates back to around the 10th century, is located in the centre of Clones, Co. Monaghan.

Its conservation is one of several plans underway as part of a project to protect Clones’ heritage sites.

The Claim

Multiple posts on social media have claimed that a Celtic High Cross in Clones, Co. Monaghan is being relocated because Muslims want it to be moved, or because Monaghan County Council is under pressure not to ‘offend’ Muslims.

One Facebook post, which has been seen 29,000 times since it was first shared on 15 August, says that “they [sic] is a Celtic cross in Clones town centre for hundreds of years and Muslims what [sic] it removed”.

Twitter account “Citizen Journalist Network (IRE)” wrote: “There’s talk of relocating the Cross that has sat in the middle of Clones for hundreds of years. The excuse used is that it may be unstable. The real reason is that new flats are being built to facilitate the influx of Muslims into Clones, the council don’t want to offend them.”

The tweet has been retweeted 139 times and liked 198 times.

Several comments responding to the claim expressed Islamophobic sentiments and suggested, without evidence, that moving the cross was an attempt to obscure Irish heritage.

The Evidence

Monaghan County Council does have plans to potentially relocate the Celtic High Cross in the centre of Clones – but the decision is unrelated to Muslims.

The possible move comes as part of a heritage project for Clones which is seeking to conserve the town’s historical sites and artefacts.

One aspect of the plan is to conserve a 10th-century Celtic High Cross in the Diamond at the centre of Clones.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, County Heritage Officer at Monaghan County Council Shirley Clerkin explained that the cross, which has intricate stone detail, is deteriorating due to environmental factors like acid rain and traffic fumes. 

Several options have been considered for how to conserve the cross, one of which is to move the historic cross to a designated viewing space in a refurbished heritage centre in Clones and build a replica of the cross to remain in the town centre.

The Council plans to refurbish the nearby Lennard Arms hotel, which has been closed for several years, and create a new heritage centre and exhibition space.

The original cross, if moved, would be given a designated viewing space in the centre, and be presented alongside information about its history.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Councillor Pat Treanor for the Ballybay-Clones Municipal District said it was “absolutely not” the case that the cross was being moved because of the Muslim community and that the suggestion was “nonsense”.

Minutes for a meeting of the Ballybay-Clones Municipal District in February detail that the Council is working with the Office of Public Works and the Department of Heritage to “develop a very unique project for the former Lennard Arms Hotel”.

“It is currently proposed to develop the site as a suitable location for the relocation of the High Cross,” the minutes state.

“This work will involve the demolition of the more modern buildings on the site and the protection of the façade which is visible from the Diamond Area.”

There is no indication in minutes for the meetings of the municipal district in the last 12 months that would suggest the project was influenced in any way by the Muslim community.

Clerkin similarly told TheJournal.ie that the claims were “absolutely crazy”.

“I certainly, certainly haven’t been approached by anybody to remove the high cross for that reason. That’s just bonkers,” Clerkin said.

No one has ever suggested such a thing.

“What we hope to do is conserve the cross, make a replica of the cross, and then – with full permission from the National Monuments Service, the Department of Heritage, all of the architects and archaeologists -  to place the replica on the site where the cross is at the moment and to place the original cross in a purpose-built area to protect it from the weather behind the Lennard Arms,” Clerkin said.

Under that plan, a viewing gallery would be designed to allow the public to easily view the cross at different levels, which is difficult in its current position due to the height of the cross.

“At the moment, it’s difficult to see detail up on the arms of the cross and around the head which is very inscribed,” Clerkin said.

This would allow people to actually appreciate the detail of it up close, but at the same time, not losing the impact of the cross in The Diamond.”

An alternative plan is to maintain the cross in its current setting with a protective covering, but there are concerns that a covering would be “obtrusive”.

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Clerkin said the relocation of the cross would “give it its own special setting where it can be conserved for the long term for the future and future generations so they can see the detail on the actual original cross”.

“We could leave it where it is, but it will literally dissolve. We could do that – that’s a non-interventionist approach,” she said.

“But, on merit and to recognise the importance of the cross, we want it to be there for our grandchildren to be able to view and to see. I think we need to do something to protect it.”

The Verdict

Several posts circulating on social media have claimed that a Celtic High Cross in Clones, Co Monaghan is being moved because it allegedly ‘offends’ Muslims.

Responses to the claim have suggested that moving the cross is an attack on Irish history and culture.

Councillor for the Ballybay-Clones Municipal District Pat Treanor and County Heritage Officer for Monaghan County Council Shirley Clerkin have confirmed that the proposed relocation of the cross has no connection to any Muslims.

Equally, there is no evidence in the minutes of the Municpal District’s meetings that would support the claims.

The relocation of the cross to a nearby venue is an option being considered under a project to conserve Clones’ heritage.

The cross dates back to the 10th century, and its stonework and inscriptions are losing their detail in its current setting outdoors due to contemporary environmental factors such as acid rain and traffic.

Effectively, the cross will “dissolve” if conservation measures are not taken.

The potential relocation of the cross is a plan to conserve a piece of Irish heritage – not to obscure it.

As a result, we rate the claim that the Celtic High Cross is being moved in Clones because of Muslims: NONSENSE. As per our verdict guide, this means: The claim is wildly inaccurate, logically impossible, and/or ridiculous.

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