A Mid- Cork farmer has been ordered to pay fines and penalties totalling €20,000 after he admitted demolishing two historic ring forts on his land in breach of legislation aimed at protecting such structures.
Patrick Desmond from Curraghclough, Lissarda, pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to the demolition of two ring forts at his farm on Knockacaraigh, Kilmurry between June 24 and July 29, 2010.
Judge Donagh McDonagh imposed fines of €5,000 on Desmond on each charge and also ordered him to pay €2,500 in respect of each charge to the office of the Minister for the Environment and to make a contribution of a further €5,000 to Barnados
Desmond, who farms 485 acres across six holdings, told the court during the trial that he had been farming since he was a child and he had never heard of any farmer ever getting into trouble for demolishing such structures.
He said that he had not known the two metre high circles, which were 30 metres and 60 metres in diameter, were recorded monuments and if he had, he would not have gone near them them. "My intention was to clean off scrub," he told the court.
He said he had already been penalised to the tune of €14,700, which was deducted from the Department of Agriculture's Single Farm Payment to him as a result of his actions in July 2010.
Cross-examined by prosecution barrister, Siobhan Lankford BL about the fact that he moved onto the farm on July 23, 2010 and within six days had demolished "two fairy forts", Desmond rejected the suggestion he had considered them simply a nuisance.
"I didn't give any thought to them. I saw it as cleaning up scrub … I had no idea they were fairy forts and that they were protected structures," said Desmond who had employed a contractor to remove the scrub from his farm.
He had not walked the land before buying the farm but had driven it in his jeep and he had not noticed the forts when viewing the land and nobody had brought the forts to his attention, he said.
Imposing the fines and penalties, Judge McDonagh said that landowners should make themselves aware of any historic or protected structures on their land and of any obligations that they have towards such structures.
Ringforts, which generally date from 500-1000AD, are recorded monuments under legislation.
A breach of the National Monuments Act can lead to up to five years in jail and/or a maximum fine of €63,000.
Earlier this year, a kerry farmer was fined €25,000 for destroying an ring fort on lands he had bought just two months earlier.