An ancient chamber in north Dublin dating back to at least the sixth century has been vandalised only a month after being discovered.
The archaeological site in Donabate was targeted over the weekend with concerns that a pickaxe was used to carry out the premeditated damage.
The attack happened at the start of heritage week, an initiative to celebrate Ireland’s natural, built and cultural heritage.
Calls have now been made for a preservation order to be applied to the site to prevent any further damage being caused.
Corina Johnston, a local area representative for the Labour party, said that the deliberate vandalism of the “extremely rare” site was concerning.
The souterrain (underground structure) was first discovered in the Corballis area of the coastal town in early July with the National Monument Service confirming that it dated back as far as the sixth century.
Ms Johnston said that she had called for the site to be protected, preserved and maintained, but that this hadn’t occurred prior to the vandalism over the weekend.
The discovery was made on Sunday evening, when it was found that the capstone cover had been removed and that both large and small stones had been broken into pieces, with a large hole created to try enter the souterrain, possibly with a pick axe.
“Thanks to a local man who discovered this on Sunday evening and set about sealing the enclosure to ensure no further destruction could ensue,” Ms Johnston said.
“There were thunderstorm warnings that evening but this man worked for three hours on his own to secure the site.
“It is really concerning for me that people responsible went there knowing what they were looking for.”
After consulting with a local archaeologist, it’s believed the writing on a wall inside the chamber is possibly from the Norse Futhark alphabet.
This, if confirmed, would date back to 800AD making it “extremely rare” and “even more significant” than first thought.
Corina Johnston said it was now imperative that Fingal County Council, the National Monument Service and the Minister for Heritage Malcom Noonan ensure that the site is sealed-off, secured, protected and preserved.
This, she said, was all the more important given that Ireland is currently celebrating heritage week.
Ms Johnston said that gardaí have been notified of the vandalism and appealed for anyone with information to contact Swords garda station.
The site where the ancient chamber is located is owned by a private developer.
An application for a Strategic Housing Development for 1365 units on the site has gone to An Bord Pleanála, with a decision on the matter still pending.