Church authorities, gardaí, and locals remain mystified about the motive for cutting down a landmark Christian cross at the summit of Ireland’s highest mountain.
The cross, which was felled on Friday night or early on Saturday morning.
Kerry’s Bishop Ray Browne yesterday said he was “saddened and upset” at the destruction of the monument, which mountain climbers and hillwalkers on Carrantuohill had looked on with fondness for almost 40 years.
Hillwalkers discovered the steel cross vandalised on Saturday, and the matter was reported to the gardaí.
Moves are also under way to have the cross repaired and re-erected, with offers coming from engineering firms in the Killarney area to complete the work.
Carrantuohill is in the Beaufort area and the local community council is expected to decide on likely action at a meeting this week.
Beaufort community council chairman Tim Moriarty said they would look at ways of repairing and restoring the cross as quickly as possible.
He recalled how 100 people had been involved in erecting the cross, in five parts, in 1976. It replaced a wooden cross erected in 1952.
“People in the parish are in disbelief and are baffled some people would go to so much trouble to cut down the cross,” said Mr Moriarty. “It must have been quite an effort”.
It is believed equipment such as a steel-cutting saw had to be hauled up the mountain, probably on Friday, as the vandalism was not discovered until Saturday morning. A plaque attached to the cross has disappeared.
Gardaí scene-of-crime experts have examined the location, with the help of an air corps helicopter. Supt Flor Murphy, based in Killarney, confirmed that gardaí are conducting a criminal investigation.
“It’s simple vandalism — that’s what it is,” said Supt Murphy.
Appealing for the public’s assistance, Supt Murphy said it was an unusual investigation, as the perpetrators had clearly gone to great lengths to access the site in order to perpetrate criminal damage.
Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae said it was the work of an antichrist and an “act of sacrilege”, but that the local community would respond by ensuring the cross would be re-erected with minimum delay.
Bishop Browne, meanwhile, said he did not know why anyone would want to do such a thing.
The Christian message, said Bishop Browne, was all about love. Christians were working for a better world and they set out to be positive rather than negative, to build rather than knock down.
Gardaí believe a number of people were involved in what had been a planned act. It is hoped farmers, visitors, or people taking part in outdoor activities may be able to assist the inquiry.
Anyone who saw anything unusual in the Carrantuohill area on Thursday, Friday, or early on Saturday, is asked to contact the gardaí in Killarney on 064 667 1160.
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