Monday 23 October 2017

Thieves prised open locks to steal priceless shrine

Inspector Kieran Keyes, of Tullamore garda station, with St Manchan's Shrine, the
religious artefact which was stolen last Friday and recovered the next day. Photo: JAMES FLYNN/APX
Inspector Kieran Keyes, of Tullamore garda station, with St Manchan's Shrine, the religious artefact which was stolen last Friday and recovered the next day. Photo: JAMES FLYNN/APX
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

THIEVES who stole a priceless 12th-century shrine from behind an alarmed bulletproof glass panel in a church were able to prise the locks open with a screwdriver or their fingers.

The richly ornate St Manchan's Shrine was taken from Boher Church in Co Offaly by two culprits in broad daylight on Friday.

The relic was recovered by gardai nearby in Doon, Co Offaly, on Saturday evening. It is understood it was found hidden in a bog. It is not known if it suffered any damage as a result of the raid.

Boher curate Fr James Mac Kiernan yesterday speculated that one of the thieves used either a finger or a screwdriver to force open the armoured panelling.

The relic -- reputed to contain the bones of the 7th century St Manchan, who founded a monastery in Lemanaghan -- was on display behind a bulletproof glass panel and guarded by an alarm and CCTV.

One of the thieves entered the church disguised with a hoodie over their face while the second waited in a getaway car.

Fr MacKiernan said the thieves were determined to get their hands on the relic and were not put off when the security alarm was activated.

However, he said a review of security would now be carried out.

Invaluable

"The locks and the alarm are at the bottom of the panelling and they were able to get either a finger or screwdriver in at the top to prise it out, and then they used force to pull the thing open," Fr MacKiernan said.

He said the shrine was of great historical value to the parish, but of no monetary value.

He disputed one newspaper report that said it was worth €20m, adding it may have been insured for up to €4m.

"As a commodity, it's of no value really to anybody, but to the people of the parish it's invaluable," he said.

"It has been in the parish since 1130. It has been an integral part of almost every facet of life in the parish for the last 1,000 years.

"There is huge devotion to it and huge reverence for it, and it means an awful lot to the people here," Fr MacKiernan said.

The relic is made of yew wood and gilt bronze. It was taken at about 1.30pm on Friday.

Two men who were being questioned about the theft were released without charge on Saturday afternoon. A file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Irish Independent

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