“As this location is a protected National Monument, we are appealing for any witnesses or information in relation to this incident”
A message posted on the Meath Crime Prevention Facebook page asking anyone with information on the incident at the Loughcrew Cairns to contact Kells Garda Station.
Alongside pictures of fire damage at the site, gardai wrote: “Kells Gardaí are investigating an incident of criminal damage which occurred at Loughcrew Cairns.
“Sometime between 5pm on Wednesday August 10th and 10.20pm on Thursday August 11, a person or persons lit a fire at this Neolithic site, causing damage to this ancient ground.
“As this location is a protected National Monument, we are appealing for any witnesses or information in relation to this incident. Please contact Kells Garda Station on 046 9280820 or the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111.
Last year, the Office of Public Works and the National Monuments Service in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage said they were “deeply dismayed” by acts of vandalism perpetrated at the historic site.
The monument is believed to be more than 5,000 years old.
In April the Loughcrew Cairns were vandalised with graffiti and messages scratched on the Neolithic burial site.
One example of the graffiti reads “Ben was here.”
Patrick O’Donovan TD, Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, as issued an appeal for anyone with information in relation to the incident to come forward.
He said: “The Loughcrew cairns are passage tombs of great antiquity. They are part of our cultural inheritance and I am shocked that some of the ancient carved stones at this heritage site have been recklessly damaged by graffiti.
“I appeal to anybody with information in relation to this incident to contact the local Gardaí to help find the culprits.”
Minister O’Donovan added: “Together with our colleagues in the National Monuments Service, we are preparing a campaign for the month of June to raise awareness of the significance and vulnerability of our beautiful monuments, which is vital to preserve them for future generations.
Minister for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan TD, also condemned the acts of “mindless vandalism” and called for the perpetrators to be brought to court.
He said: “Our heritage sites provide important accessible spaces for the enjoyment and benefit of the public and it is shocking that anyone would think it appropriate to damage decorative stones left by our ancestors from thousands of years ago.
“I condemn such mindless vandalism at one of Ireland’s most significant archaeological monuments and we will do all we can with our colleagues in the OPW to ensure that the culprits are identified and brought before the Courts.”