Criticism over DfC neglect of heritage sites

August 8, 2016

The NI Executive’s Department for Communities (DfC) has come under fire for failing to protect and promote heritage sites in south Armagh by allowing them to become overgrown and inaccessible.

Slieve Gullion Sinn Féin councillor Mickey Larkin has called on the agency to “step up to the plate” and treat the south Armagh region the same regard as it does other areas of the north.

Councillor Larkin says he was contacted by residents of the area who were distressed to find “an appalling lack of care” at the site of Killeavy Old Church, a national monument dating back over 1,000 years.

Responding to the residents concerns, he visited the site and described the scene: “In the East Church I discovered plastic sacks lying in overgrown ground with weeds standing at over a metre high. To allow a sacred place with such international standing to degrade to such a degree is a poor reflection on the commitment of the Department to protect and promote the heritage of this Council district,” he said.

Mr Larkin says he has received similar reports relating to the ancient court tombs at Ballymacdermot, Annaghmare and Ballykeel.

“We have a situation where heritage tours are being offered to day trippers and tourists through the Ring of Gullion Partnership and private companies, where they are confronted with inaccessible sites. It would appear that this Council district has been ignored when it comes to protecting monuments of this nature.

“If the Department is unwilling to provide the services entrusted to it then I would suggest that it transfers the funding and responsibility for such works to the new Council where local people will ensure the upkeep of local historical sites.”

The councillor also criticized those behind the dumping of a quantity of laundered fuel waste, which was discovered close to Killeavy Old Church.

“I find it difficult to fathom the reasoning behind such desecration of the south Armagh countryside,” he said.  “Financial gain does not and cannot be allowed to trump community rights. Those involved in these activities need to reflect on what their neighbours and community think of their polluting of the environment, waterways and food chain. The health of this region easily defeats the financial gains of this criminal activity in importance. It may be time for anyone adversely affected by this poison to seek compensation from those involved in this illegal activity.”