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7 December 2011
Man faces jail for demolishing ancient Irish ring fort

An Irishman is facing a possible five-year jail term after he was prosecuted for demolishing an ancient ring fort on land belonging to his family. In the first case of its kind to be heard in an Irish Court, John O'mahony appeared at Tralee Circuit Criminal Court where he pleaded guilty to carrying out unauthorised work near a monument on his family's farmland in Causeway in 2008.
     The court heard that the family of Mr O'mahony, a 64-year-old farmer, owned lands which contained a ring fort and a series of underground tunnels, or souterrains, which dated back to between 500 BCE and 100 CE. The ring fort and souterrain system were deemed to be national monuments of historic importance and had been placed on a national register.
     While Irish landowners are allowed carry out works on or near national monuments that are on the register, they must contact the Department Environment and receive express written permission from the minister before they proceed. Judge Carroll Moran was told that in February 2008, without seeking permission from the department, John O'mahony hired workers who demolished the majority of the ring fort and used the materials to fill in a nearby pond. In the course of the work, the majority of the fort was destroyed while two thirds of the souterrian was demolished.
     When the Department of the Environment learned of the demolition they contacted Gardaí in Listowel who launched and investigation. During the garda investigation, John O'mahony admitted to ordering the demolition of the fort but said he didn't know he wasn't allowed touch the site without two months notice and permission from the minister.
     Prosecution Barrister told the court that as a result of Mr O'mahony's actions "part of the history and culture of county Kerry has been irretrievably lost." Defence Barrister Mr John O'sullivan said his client simply didn't understand the implications of his actions. Judge Carroll said that due to the unusual nature of the case he would need time to reflect before passing sentence. He adjourned the case until January 16 2012.

Edited from Kerryman (30 November 2011)

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