THE OFFICE of Public Works has defended the 'apparent dumping' of medieval stonework, pictured, at Tintern Abbey, saying that none of the stone discovered by one of Ireland's leading field archaeologists came from any national monument in State care.
Archaeologist Michael Gibbons has lodged a complaint with the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan after he encountered 'large quantities of worked stone of medieval and post-medieval date' lying next to one of the tracks between the Abbey and the walled garden while visiting the area on a field trip.
'These are all historic and protected by law,' said Mr Gibbons. 'It is illegal to interfere with an artefact without a licence and these are artefacts reflecting the building history of Tintern.'
According to Mr Gibbons the recently published book on the Tintern Abbey conservation work and excavations suggested that stonework removed from the abbey had been scientifically recorded and carefully stored. 'In fact, these remains seem to have simply been dumped in an open area without any protection and without any visible markings to indicate where each individual piece was discovered,' he said.
'This treatment of archaeological remains falls well below international standards and I suspect that it may actually be illegal since each of these pieces of stonework is an archaeological artefact in its own right and ought not to be exposed to damage by those entrusted with its care,' said Mr Gibbons.
However, according to the OPW, Coillte agreed to allow the OPW store stone designated for future work in Wexford region in this area. The stone is unrelated to Tintern Abbey, the OPW pointed out.
The OPW said: 'In the depot in Kilkenny, we have an area in the yard where stone from various sources is stored for re-use, and this quantity of stone was drawn from there. The sources include, for example, demolition of a pier in Howth in the 1980s. None of the stone came from any national monument in State care.'