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Gardaí now investigating Sinn Féin members in propaganda stunt at national heritage site staffed by lone female guide

Minister condemns ‘completely inappropriate’ use of heritage sites for political purposes


Junior Minister Patrick O'Donovan has confirmed the OPW has made a complaint to gardai.

Junior Minister Patrick O'Donovan has confirmed the OPW has made a complaint to gardai.

Junior Minister Patrick O'Donovan has confirmed the OPW has made a complaint to gardai.

Gardaí are now investigating an incident where Sinn Féin activists “ignored” staff at a national monument to carry out a propaganda stunt. 

Members of Mary Lou McDonald’s party unfurled a massive banner with a political slogan inside an iconic landmark.

The two carloads of Sinn Féin members “ignored” the lone female guide staffing the ancient fort who told them they couldn't use it for those purposes.

Sinn Féin activists have been unfurling the banner in a number of well-known heritage locations around the country. The party says the members were unaware of the rules at the national monument banning its use for political purposes. However, a video of the unfurling has now been removed from party social media accounts.

The episode happened when two Northern Ireland-registered cars pulled up at a ring fort in Donegal. The occupants went inside the ancient stone fort of Grianán of Aileach with a large banner.
Condemning the incident, Junior Minister Patrick O’Donovan confirmed the Office of Public Works (OPW) has now made a complaint to the Gardaí.

“The use of Ireland’s national monuments and heritage sites for political purposes is completely inappropriate and this incident should not have occurred. The OPW’s guidelines are clear that no filming of a political nature is permitted and the matter has been referred to An Garda Siochána,” he said.

The Garda Press Office says: "Gardaí received a report of an incident at a heritage site in Co Donegal. Enquiries are ongoing into this matter.”

The OPW has also written to Sinn Féin informing the party of the rules and asking for any assistance it could give in discouraging such behaviour in future. The State heritage agency says it wants prevent others following the example “to protect sites from the added risk of being damaged in some way”.

“OPW’s policy is clear that heritage sites should not be used for advertising or promotional purposes, including messaging of a political nature. A review of permissions applications indicates that permission was not sought or issued for this activity,” a spokesperson said.

The OPW says no permission was sought either by the Sinn Féin activists when they turned up at the monument and the “purpose of the visit was not evident on their arrival at the site”. Pictures taken by Sinn Féin show up to a dozen party activists involved in unfurling the banner.

The incident occurred on Tuesday, June 29 and OPW headquarters in Dublin were told about it on Monday, July 5. The OPW chairman Maurice Buckley was informed of the incident in the past week and then the minister was notified. The OPW is carrying out its own internal investigation into the incident. A separate image of the Sinn Féin banner at the Hill of Tara is possibly a fake.

"OPW are not aware of any persons placing a similar banner at the Hill of Tara. The image in a tweet currently in circulation may be a stock image of the Hill of Tara which has been altered to include the banner,” a spokesperson said.

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The banner was also unfurled at the nature reserve in Ringsend in Dublin during the Dublin Bay South by-election.

Sinn Féin then used the drone footage from the fort in Donegal to promote its policies on social media and in newspapers in Derry. That video of the banner being unfurled has now been removed from a local Sinn Féin Twitter account.

“The members involved were not aware of any restrictions in place in relation to photography at the site,” a Sinn Féin spokesperson said. “The local organisation has been notified of these.”

When approached by the OPW staff member on duty, the party activists ignored the warnings about the strict ban on the use of heritage sites for such purposes and continued with the stunt.

"There was very little interaction with the OPW staff member at the site," a spokesperson said.

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