Concern over protection of monuments
THE vulnerability of the High Crosses at Monasterboice, and Muiredach's Cross in particular, has been of concern for some years.
In 2010, a report commissioned by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, in partnership with the Office of Public Works (OPW) and Louth County Council (LCC) made five recommendations for ways in which the monument could be protected and preserved.
The Monasterboice Conservation Study, which was carried out by Margaret Gowen and Company Ltd, was commissioned to address a range of urgent concerns in respect of the preservation, conservation and presentation of all the monuments at the early medieval ecclesiastical site.
This included the round tower and two stone churches as well as a series of cross-slabs and the world-renowned high crosses, including Muiredach's Cross.
However, one of the main aims of the study was to establish the best method for preserving the high crosses in particular.
The study described the Monasterboice complex as 'exceptional' incorporating outstanding examples of Irish High Crosses with upstanding early medieval structures.
The report found that the ongoing weathering of the crosses, together with the existing public access to the site would cause continuing deterioration of the high crosses.
The five options outlined in the report included the possibility of ereting protective railings around the crossed, erecting a shelter around the crosses, either a roof only with supports or with glazed walls and roof, leaving the crosses exposed to continued weathering in their current location and placing high quality replicas within the visitor centre or – most controversially – moving the crosses into a purpose-built visitor centre nearby and putting exact replicas, indistinguishable from the originals, at the original locaition.
Local tour guide Barry McGahon said the latest attack on Muiredach's Cross, in which a white paint-like substance has been used, only highlighted the lack of any action to preserve the historical monuments.
He called for action to be taken 'sooner rather than later' before more serious and lasting damage is caused to these hugely important historical monuments.