Outrage at Destruction at Dún Mór

(source: Ulster Television http://u.tv/newsroom/indepth.asp?id=47131&pt=n )

June 2004

The 700 metres of earthworks that surrounded the ancient Dún Mór Fort on the Dingle Peninsula were levelled at the weekend by an excavating machine. An entrance and a standing stone with an ogam ( inscription were also removed.

Dúchas (Irish Heritage) spokeswoman Isobel Smyth said it was a dreadful act.

"This is a very important site and we want to see an investigation carried out," she said.

The 80 acre Dún Móre fort overlooks the Blasket Islands and the Skelligs. The Ogam stone which was removed contained an inscription to Dhuibne, a deity of the Corca Dhuibne tribe which lived in the area from around 1,000 BC to 600 AD.

Gardaí (Police) visited the site yesterday and have begun an inquiry into the incident.

"There is no preservation order but it is listed as a National Monument and should not have been interfered with," said a spokesman.

The destruction was uncovered at the weekend by local walking tour guide and amateur archaeologist Con Moriarty.

"Someone has to be held responsible for this outrageous behaviour. People are lamenting the loss of historic sites and artefacts in wartime Iraq but here it is happening in peace time Ireland," he said.

It is understood the man responsible is from the local area. The Dingle Peninsula contains nearly 40 national monuments and around 2,000 other archaeological sites.

Dún Mór was one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Europe, according to Galway-based archaeologist Michael Gibbons.

"The average ring fort was around 30 metres in diameter. This was 500-600 metres. This is vandalism on an unbelievable scale," he said.

According to a Dúchas (Heritage Council) survey, around 10% of all national monuments have been lost in the last 10 years. The vast majority of this destruction is carried out by farmers who are reclaiming land. Mr Gibbons said that changes in Irish farming had accelerated the process.

"As farm sizes increase and smaller farms decline, farmers are gobbling up land they have no connection with. We are losing a lot of monuments, especially in Munster," he said.

Under the new National Monuments Bill being prepared by Environment Minister Martin Cullen, the fines for destruction of a national monuments will increase from a minimum of 62,000 euro (£41,000) to 10 million euro (£6.6 million).