Lia Fáil, Teamhair na Rí, An Mhí, Éire (An Sionnach Fionn, 2008)
I didn’t get a chance to post on this last week but the Lia Fáil or Stone of Destiny at Teamhair, the Hill of Tara, was severely damaged in an attack by at least one person armed with a large hammer in the days leading up to the 13th of June 2012. Eleven blows were struck on the Lia, on all sides, vandalising the granite surface. The stone fragments that would have been left by the destruction seem to have been removed by the perpetrators of the crime.
From the Irish Times:
“A national monument that is said to have served as the coronation stone for the High Kings of Tara has been vandalised, it was revealed today.
Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan condemned the attack on the Lia Fáil (stone of destiny) Standing Stone, which is situated on the Hill of Tara in Co Meath.
The standing stone, which is believed to date from 3,500BC, is considered an extremely important national monument and features extensively in ancient texts. The granite stone is associated with the inauguration rites for the Kings of Tara and was moved to its current position in the early 19th century.
The monument was reported to be damaged last weekend, but it is unknown when the attack occurred.
An archaeologist from the National Monuments Service examined the monument this week and concluded it had been struck – possibly with a hammer or similar instrument – at 11 places on all four faces of the stone. Fragments of the standing stone were also removed.
Speaking today, Mr Deenihan said the national monuments at Tara, which include the standing stone, are nationally and internationally renowned.
“These monuments are a fundamental part of our shared heritage and history, and I condemn in the strongest terms the damage that has been caused to this monument,” he said.”
The Herald carries a commentary that will echo the feelings of many in the country, and beyond:
“IT wasn’t beautiful, the Lia Fáil. Just a tall, rounded monument like a primeval penis, standing upright on the Hill of Tara in Co Meath.
But to see it as the sun rose or set was to be connected with five thousand years of Irish history, because this is the spot where kings were crowned.
The stone carried writing from a time we can barely imagine. A time when Ireland was filled with mystery and myth. It caused visitors to realise just how small they are, in the long, long story of this island.
Until someone took a lump hammer to it. Some anonymous vandal struck the monument at least eleven times. Oh, the power that vandal must have felt, destroying history with each blow.
And the secret power the vandal may still feel, clutching some of the pieces chipped off the stone.
Souvenirs to be boasted of with drinking buddies, or maybe just savoured in private to prove how heroic the vandal is, in his own eyes. (Sorry to be sexist, but the chances that the perp was a woman are pretty small.)
This was vandalism on a different scale. Whoever did this has a pathetic need to prove themselves bigger than history. And they succeeded.
They erased some of the work of a craftsman who reached out to us across the centuries. They severed a link that mattered. Let’s face it, if you drop a glass bought in IKEA last week, you sweep it up and forget about it.
If you drop a glass left to you by your grandmother, you’re furious with yourself; some part of your family past has been accidentally destroyed.
But you’d never, ever take a hammer to a family heirloom. Of course, more Irish people go to Disneyland in any given year than ever visited the Lia Fáil in Meath, and many of those who have visited were not that moved by the tall rounded lump of stone.
For many, this was a “whatever” moment, rather than a shock-and-awe issue. And now, some expert will assess what can be done and the majority will forget about it, because we have more immediate fish to fry.
We’ve lost monuments before and their loss hasn’t done us enormous harm.
Someone with more fire power than a lump hammer decided to take down Nelson’s Pillar in the middle of Dublin and a fair few Irish people thought “good riddance,” because, although climbing all the steps to the top was a rite of passage for tourists, many locals didn’t particularly like having a British admiral, however heroic, dominating the capital’s streetscape.
But Nelson had been up there for nearly two hundred years. Not thousands of years. Nelson linked us with a period of our history we hated. So we got over his fall.
But here’s the reality. The lads who sang The Fields Of Athenry this week in the face of sporting humiliation were following a great tradition. Making a statement in song about who we are, as a nation.
Ireland’s story is told in song, in story — and in stone. That some fool with a lump hammer destroyed one of the great stone chapters in our history is stupid, shameful — and sad.”
Teamhair, the ritual capital of Ireland, is one of the most important sites on the island of Ireland; it connects us to our Gaelic and Celtic identity. The Lia Fáil was part of that identity and the damage done to it was not just a series of physical blows to a granite stone but a blow at the very foundations of the Irish nation. Of who we are as a people.
I urge anyone who has information in relation to this grotesque act of vandalism to contact the Gardaí. Or if reluctant to do so you may contact me in confidence at the email address of An Sionnach Fionn and I will take the matter from there.
An Garda Síochána can be contacted at:
Ashbourne Garda Station, Ashbourne, Co. Meath
Tel: +353 1 8010600
Fax: +353 1 8352837 (Public Office)
Fax: +353 1 8010603 (District Office)
District HQ: Ashbourne
District HQ Tel: +353 1 8010600
Divisional HQ: Navan
Divisional HQ Tel: +353 46 9036300