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

13 comments on “The Vandalism Of The Lia Fáil

  1. Despicable. Do you know how extensive the damage is? I really wanted to visit the site one day.


    • It seems each side of the Lia Fáil was hit with a hammer (or hammers) in an almost ritual manner, some eleven times. And the stone chippings were removed. All very strange and very disturbing. I will visit the site soon and take some photos and post to An Sionnach Fionn. A terrible indictment of modern Ireland. Nothing is sacred. Quite literally.


      • Thank you. It’s as disturbing as an American deciding to burn the original Declaration of Independence. It seems like a symbolic attack on a whole heritage, an ancient people and every person they’ve influenced. Disgusting.


        • I quite agree, Shawn. I wouldn’t call it a mindless act of vandalism since a few people seem convinced there was some intent behind it.


  2. michaeleverson932

    I am gutted to learn of such vicious and ignorant vandalism.


    • As was I. I’ve visited Teamhair on a regular basis since my childhood, at least every year or so. Its somewhere I’ve always found immensely spiritual – despite my atheism. I can’t believe this has been done. And in such a methodical manner. As a friend just pointed out to me, the removal of the stone chippings and the deliberate damage to each side of the Lia was almost ritual in nature. I find it hard to believe that the Wiccan or Neo-Pagan folk who visit or hang out there could do such a thing, though they do leave cut marks on the trees as well as pulling up stones to make improvised miniature “altars” or circles. But most seem immensely respectful of the site.

      But it is hard to believe it was simply a mindless act of vandalism: drunken youths or suchlike. All very strange and very upsetting. Will go up soon for a look and will post to the blog.


  3. Seán Ua Hóireabhárd

    It is the most disgusting act of cultural vandalism, perhaps ever, perpetrated on Irish soil, and that is saying something. As far as I can gather, the stone is not irreparably damaged, merely chipped on each of its faces. Perhaps the stone should be withdrawn from Tara until the Irish public is educated enough to protect a sacred monument such as this against wanton vandalism.

    The Lia Fáil goes right back to the time of Conn Céad Cathach, hundreds of years before Christianity arrived in Ireland. According to myth, the stone recognises the correct rulers of Ireland, something that was vital in a time where usurpers were common. It is a link with the ancient past, one of a very few, and it is being feely damaged. It is part of the identity of County Meath, and of Ireland.

    I wonder would the stone recognise the rulers of Ireland today. Probably not. For the rulers of Ireland today repeatedly show themselves incapable of protection of culture, and inaction over this vandalism will only affirm their impotence. I hope that the perpetrators of this crime are caught and brought to immediate and harsh justice, in some reparation for their heinous crime.

    My thanks to you, An Sionnach Fionn, for raising the profile of the story.


    • Thanks for the Comment, Seán. I know damage to ancient monuments does happen in relation to farming activities. In some cases the farmers deliberately damage sites on their property at harvest or planting time in order to eventually have them delisted as national monuments so they can use the land but it’s not that common (I think; though I do know of one lamentable case represented by the mounds at Brí Mhór in Fingal where it does seem deliberate damage is being done, partly in pursuit of the much vaunted planned sea port).

      Of course recently we’ve also had a number of robberies of national artefacts from locations around the country. Very similar to what is happening in Greece at the moment.

      The vandalism at Teamhair does seem strange though. Drunken youths, some deranged statement about lost Irish sovereignty, Wiccans?


  4. James Todd

    The motherfucker should be executed, and I say that without any exaggeration whatsoever. This is disgusting. Reminds me a lot of what the Taliban did to the Bamiyan Buddhas.

    So much history disfigured by one anonymous, dishonorable coward. This isn’t only an affront to the Irish people, this is an attack on all of humanity.

    I can’t think straightly enough to say much about this. Only know that I extend my deepest sympathies to your nation and its defiled heritage. I have a special hatred for those who destroy historical artifacts. They are absolutely no different than book burners. Knowledge, especially knowledge of the cultures and people that came before us, is one of the few indisputably good and pure things in this life. I can’t explain my feelings on this to a satisfactory degree. My deepest sympathies to the Irish, and I hope justice finds the piece of shit that did this quickly.


    • I share your outrage, James. Hopefully the person or persons who did this can be found and brought to book. A bit of restorative justice should serve as an example to others. There is plenty of work up at Teamhair and in the surrounding complex of sites to do, things that need upkeep and repair. Let them work their punishment off.

      Failing that a lengthy custodial sentence.

      The comparison with the Taliban is quite apt. Cultural terrorists. Altogether depressing.


  5. you know the first thing american troops did in 2003 when they invaded Iraq? They looted the baghdad museum and stole antiquities which were eventually returned but you should look up this story before you see a pattern happenning everywhere including syria, greece , egypt . Very conveniently they raid places which happen to be in important country’s which happened to be home to the world’s most famous empires


  6. Jack Delaney

    I am writing some 7 months on now but it still bemuses me.
    I can only think that someone perhaps had some strange belief that if they had parts of the stone they would use it in their wiccan or magical works. Some part of me thinks it could have been unionists who as we know HATE everything Irish wanting to defile a very important site.


    • I suspect you are right, Jack. The deliberate manner of the damage and the removal of the stone-chippings was quite methodical. It says very little for one’s religious beliefs, of whatever type, that they involve damaging ancient artefacts to fulfil them. I find it hard to believe that no one has been brought to book yet for the vandalism. People know who did this and are hiding the fact. Utterly shameful.


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