FOR THE first time in living memory the gates of one of the oldest cemeteries in County Limerick have been locked after a car was burnt out on the hallowed ground.
While most graveyards are locked, Abington in Murroe always remained open for visitors to drive in to pay their respects.
Now they have been forced to buy a lock and you can only gain access in the main drive by ringing a number to be allowed in.
Murroe gardai are appealing for members of the public, who may have seen suspicious activity in or around the graveyard on Monday evening, January 7, to contact them in complete confidentiality on 061 386102.
The car was driven in, set alight and the blaze caused minor damage to a grave.
Cllr John Egan says Abington cemetery is steeped in history.
It is the site of a Cistercian monastery, called the Abbey of Owney, built in the thirteenth century. The cemetery dates back to the early 1700s.
“This is the lowest of the low. There has never been any vandalism before.
“Having to lock the gates is going to create fierce inconvenience because people come there cleaning graves and headstones, cutting grass, bringing flowers and visiting loved ones.
“They could drive in freely, now they have to get a key, all as a result of thuggery. It us absolutely disgraceful that they went so far in to the graveyard,” said Cllr Egan, who adds that Abington is the main graveyard for Murroe, Boher, Cappamore and down as far as Lisnagry.
With over 800 graves he says it gets very busy, especially at weekends.
“You have to make an appointment now to open the gate. This is what thugs can do to a local community.
“A lot of people come to the graveyard every week, some drive in with their spades, clippers, lawn mowers etc now they can’t do that.
“Unfortunately due to circumstances the gate of a graveyard has to be locked when it was never done before,” said Cllr Egan.
Parish priest of Murroe/Boher, Fr Thomas Ryan, said the trespassing in the graveyard shows that “nothing is sacred”.
“It is very old - without a doubt one of the oldest in County Limerick. It is holy ground, it is a special place.
“It was a bit of a shock to the system that people would open a gate to a cemetery, go in and burn out a car.
“It is a sign of the times that nothing is sacred anymore,” said Fr Ryan.
One of the legends of the abbey concerns the monks’ donkey which used to travel alone around the parish collecting alms in two large baskets.
One day the donkey’s load was robbed and it arrived back with empty baskets.
The Prior laid a curse on the unknown thief, that he and his family should never again see their own shadows.
Centuries later many locals are now cursing the perpetrators of the car fire too.