The above is what someone has just done to Lia Fáil, “The Stone of Destiny” which stands on top of the Hill of Tara.

Mr Jimmy Deenihan, Ireland’s Arts and Heritage Minister, has made all the right noises on behalf of his Government: “This act of mindless vandalism, on one of our premier archaeological sites, is truly shameful …. The national monuments at Tara, which include this standing stone, form part of our national heritage and history.

But you can’t help reflecting that the Irish Government hasn’t always treated Tara with such reverence. Not long ago there was a little matter of them driving the massive M3 Motorway past it! And remember this …

The trail of the M3 works, from Rath Lugh back to Lismullin - The huge Iron Age enclosure was recorded and then, incredibly, destroyed.

The trail of the M3 works, from Rath Lugh back to Lismullin – The huge Iron Age enclosure was recorded and then, incredibly, destroyed.

(See also the previous Journal article by our colleague Gordon Kingston – Tara, the damage forever done)

Could it be that Governments (on both sides of the Irish Sea) are a bit selective about which bits of heritage they cry about? Culture Minister Jimmy Deenihan certainly seems to be. In 2012 he led a Government deputation to Europe arguing for the interests of turfcutters rather than heritage on a protected bog, saying: “My sympathies are first and foremost with the turfcutters, including members of my own extended family on Moanveanlagh. Part of me wishes that the portfolio had been kept to arts, sports and tourism, but that wasn’t the case and I have to accept responsibility on behalf of the Irish State on this issue.


It’s not the first time that the Lia Fáil has been vandalised. Two years ago someone attacked it with a hammer and took pieces away. There were plenty of official noises about that too but the best and crucially most sincere commentary on it appeared in The Herald. It’s not clear who wrote it but the level of sincerity and passion suggests it wasn’t anyone from the Irish Government. (Or the British one – can you imagine the Environment Minister and MP for Oswestry, Owen Patterson, speaking with such passion about the vandalising of the setting of his local hill fort?!)

“The stone carried writing from a time we can barely imagine. A time when Ireland was filled with mystery and myth. It caused visitors to realise just how small they are, in the long, long story of this island.

Until someone took a lump hammer to it. Some anonymous vandal struck the monument at least eleven times. Oh, the power that vandal must have felt, destroying history with each blow. And the secret power the vandal may still feel, clutching some of the pieces chipped off the stone. Souvenirs to be boasted of with drinking buddies, or maybe just savoured in private to prove how heroic the vandal is, in his own eyes.

For many, this was a “whatever” moment, rather than a shock-and-awe issue. And now, some expert will assess what can be done and the majority will forget about it, because we have more immediate fish to fry. We’ve lost monuments before and their loss hasn’t done us enormous harm. But …. Ireland’s story is told in song, in story — and in stone. That some fool with a lump hammer destroyed one of the great stone chapters in our history is stupid, shameful — and sad.”

Great stuff, eh? (Mr Patterson’s equivalent is: “Like my predecessor I have a strict rule about not getting involved in planning in my constituency. I am a supporter of localism and the local plan. I am very keen that local people have a say in planning in their area and have never tried to second guess the decisions of councillors.”)