‘Shocking’ vandalism of megalithic tomb site in Co Sligo being investigated

OPW says extensive graffiti and apparent collapse of entrance stones at Carrowkeel being ‘treated very seriously’

Acts of vandalism carried out at a megalithic passage tomb site in Co Sligo over the weekend are being investigated by gardaí.

The site at Carrowkeel, home to a collection of monuments, is part of an extensive landscape settled by early neolithic cattle-farmers. A series of passage-graves was constructed in stages, beginning in around 3,500 BC, across the highest summits and ledges of the Bricklieve Mountains.

Photographer Ken Williams visited the tombs on Saturday and said he believed the vandalism occurred between midday and 5.30pm. He said it appeared that one of the stones forming the entrance to Cairn H had been pushed or knocked over as it was blocking the entrance.

“Inside Cairn K is the worst vandalism I can remember, at least eight stones and 10 surfaces have been covered in scratched graffiti, large spirals and badly executed circles cover practically the entire faces of the last two stones either side of the passage,” he said, adding that lintels had also been defaced.


“Whoever did this carried it out with the most malicious intent. It goes way beyond causal visitors mindlessly carving their names.”

An Garda Síochána confirmed it is investigating, saying “a technical examination of the scene has been conducted by the Divisional Scenes of Crime Unit”.

In a statement, the Office of Public Works and the National Monuments Service said extensive graffiti was etched across various architectural stones at the “5,500-year-old passage tombs” and the matter was being “treated very seriously, as is the apparent collapse of an entrance stone to one of the tombs”.

The agencies expressed dismay about the “wanton act of vandalism” and said they would be preparing a report for An Garda Síochána and asking the force to formally investigate the matter.

“Such interference is a serious offence and can lead to significant penalties being imposed,” the statement added. “All possible efforts are made to protect national monuments, which is challenging where they are in remote rural settings such as at Carrowkeel.”

Ms Williams said a CCTV system or rangers were needed to monitor the site, which is around 15 minutes walk from the nearest road.

“It’s the worst vandalism I have ever seen at any megalithic site in the last 20 years,” he added.

Sligo County Council said “it is shocking that anyone would think it appropriate to damage these sites left by our ancestors over 5,000 years ago”.

“The cairns at Carrowkeel form part of a collection of monuments that comprise ‘The Passage Tomb Landscape of County Sligo’, which was added to Ireland’s World Heritage Tentative List in July 2022,” it said in a statement.