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3 October 2009
Visitors littering Burren with mini-dolmens

The 5,000-year-old Poulnabrone dolmen is an impressive sight, one of the most recognisable megalithic tombs in Ireland and a highlight of any trip to the world-famous Burren. It is understandable that visitors might want to create their own version of the ancient portal tomb. But those tourists were accused of unwittingly engaging in vandalism by erecting hundreds of mini-dolmens across the protected landscape. The trend began a decade ago but has recently re-emerged.
     Two miles from the Poulnabrone dolmen, the project manager with the Burren Connect Project, Carol Gleeson, observed hundreds of mini-dolmens inside a roadside wall. She said: "The tourists erecting the dolmens are engaging in a form of vandalism. This is a wonderful ecosystem and the erection of these dolmens is like scribbling on a masterpiece." Ms Gleeson added: "Unique and vulnerable habitats are being destroyed by visitors when they illegally remove protected limestone pavement to build the dolmens. It is only recently that the erection of these dolmens has become a fad. There is no malicious intent on the part of the tourists. It comes from a lack of knowledge."
     Recently school children joined in a project to dismantle hundreds of mini-dolmens which could be seen inside a field at a site overlooking Ballyvaughan, two miles from Poulnabrone dolmen. John Hehir, who was in charge of children from Lisdoonvarna school, said: "The tourists are so impressed by the real dolmen that they want to recreate their own. But they are like graffiti on the Burren and it does take from the real landscape."
     Ms Gleeson was accompanied by Clare County Council's heritage officer Congella McGuire and biodiversity officer Shane Casey as they oversaw the children. Ms Gleeson said: "It is only recently that the erection of these dolmens has become a fad. There is no malicious intent on the part of the tourists. It comes from a lack of knowledge." Ms McGuire said: "We highlighted this problem around 10 years ago and it hasn't emerged as a problem again until recently so I guess the message has been lost in the meantime." Ms McGuire said that the erection of the dolmens occurs in only a few tourist hot spots across the Burren.

Sources: The Irish Times, Independent.ie (1 October 2009)

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