Landowner Prosecuted for Destruction of Ring Fort in Co. Kerry
A landowner was sentenced today, 2 March 2012, on charges arising from the destruction of a ring fort on his land at Clashmelcon, Causeway, Co Kerry. Mr John O’Mahony was fined €25,000 at a sitting of Tralee Circuit Criminal Court before Mr Justice Carroll Moran. The prosecution was in respect of two charges of failing to give notice of his intention to carry out work at or in relation to a monument recorded for the purposes of Section 12 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1994. The ring fort was substantially levelled and destroyed in early 2008 not long after O’Mahony had purchased the land. In the course of the hearing on 24 November 2011, it emerged that in 2007, the farmer had objected to an application for planning permission on the part of the previous owner, on the grounds that there was an archaeological monument of importance at the location in question.
Following reports of the destruction of the monument, the site was inspected by archaeologists from both the National Monuments Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the National Museum of Ireland. A member of staff of the National Museum of Ireland was also present in Court for the hearing of the case in November last. The National Museum of Ireland is very happy to have co-operated with their colleagues in the National Monuments Service in the successful investigation and prosecution of this case.
The National Museum of Ireland welcomes this important Court decision and wishes to acknowledge the significant role of An Garda Síochána in the very thorough investigation and successful prosecution of this case. Ring forts are important archaeological monuments in the landscape and much knowledge can be gained from the archaeological objects frequently associated with these monuments.
Evidence of iron working came to light at the Clashmelcon site in the form of metal working debris and iron slag picked up on the surface during official inspections in the aftermath of the extensive damage caused to the site. This damage is likely to severely limit any further information that might be gained on the nature of metal working at the site – for example, the types of smelting pits or furnaces that may have been in use and the range of objects produced. Stratigraphical evidence that might have assisted in dating this metal working activity or the agricultural practices and period of occupation of the ring fort and associated souterrain, has been substantially destroyed. Any instances of illegal removal of archaeological objects from sites and unlicensed alteration or export of archaeological objects will also be fully investigated by the National Museum and referred for legal action where appropriate.
It is hoped that today’s decision will act as a deterrent. The National Museum of Ireland appreciates the role of the majority of landowners and citizens who act responsibly in the care of the archaeological heritage in their immediate surroundings.
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