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22 June 2004
Destruction of a Prehistoric fort in Ireland

Heritage experts condemned the destruction of part of a 3,000-year-old Celtic fort in Co Kerry (Ireland). The 700 metres of earthen works that surrounded the ancient Dún Mór Fort on the Dingle Peninsula were levelled by an excavating machine. An entrance and a standing stone with an ogham (Celtic writing) inscription were also removed.
     Heritage Ireland 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 Mór fort overlooks the Blasket Islands and the Skelligs. The Ogham 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 BCE to 600 CE.
     The destruction was uncovered 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. The police visited the site and have begun an inquiry into the incident. Listed as a national monument on the Sites and Monuments Record of Co Kerry, a survey carried out by the OPW over 20 years ago, Dún Mór Fort should enjoy protection. However, the legal status of such monuments on private lands lies sometimes in "a grey area".
     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 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.

Sources: Ireland On-Line, The Irish Times (21 June 2004)

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