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Museums report big rise in vandalism of national monuments

Anti-social behaviour and metal detecting threaten ancient Irish heritage

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Kilmashogue Wedge Tomb in the Dublin Mountains, which was recently scrawled with graffiti

Kilmashogue Wedge Tomb in the Dublin Mountains, which was recently scrawled with graffiti

Kilmashogue Wedge Tomb in the Dublin Mountains, which was recently scrawled with graffiti

Fears are growing about a rise in vandalism of Ireland’s archaeological monuments as more than 70 instances of damage have been reported so far this year.

The National Monuments Service (NMS) said that in a typical year it would get between 100 and 120 such reports. But it has already received 76 complaints of vandalism or interference in the first half of 2021, leading it to believe it is an “increasing trend”.

There are more than 145,000 recorded archaeological monuments around the country in private and public ownership, some of them dating from up to 10,000 years ago.

The monuments that have been damaged range from ring forts to passage tombs. They have been targeted by vandals with graffiti, burning and other anti-social behaviour.

A recent example was the Neolithic burial monument at Loughcrew in Oldcastle, Co Meath. The Office of Public Works (OPW) said recent scratching of graffiti across elements of the various passage tombs was “the latest in a series of acts of vandalism” at the site, which is accessible year-round to the public.

Investigations were carried out to determine any appropriate measures that may be taken to mitigate the damage, and assist gardaí in their investigation.

The remains of Kilmashogue Wedge Tomb in the Dublin Mountains were also recently scrawled with graffiti, said the OPW.

Illegal metal detecting is a particular worry – and the NMS and the National Museum of Ireland are working jointly to combat it.

In the first half of this year, seven illegal metal-detecting incidents have been reported to NMS – including damage at national monuments.

A new campaign by the OPW and the Department of Housing, Heritage and Local Government has been launched to raise awareness ahead of a busy outdoor summer, with more people expected to visit national monuments. 

Examples of these monuments include megalithic tombs, standing stones, rock art, ecclesiastical enclosures, churches, graveyards, souterrains, crannógs and castles.

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