DISMAY and a deep sense of outrage have followed the recent discovery that the Famine Graveyard in Newcastle West has been ‘desecrated’.
“It is absolutely shameful,” Liam O’Mahony, a member of the graveyard committee said. “This could not be an accident.”
The appalling discovery was made on Sunday evening last. Two statues, one of Our Lady, the other of the Sacred Heart, were found smashed to pieces on the ground beside the altar table.
Also smashed was the Perspex sheeting which protected the statues which stood in a niche below the altar.
The statues were originally given as a gift to the graveyard by the late Tom Davis who was a long-time chairman of the graveyard committee, Mr O’Mahony explained. The statues had only recently been repaired and refurbished, he said, and the weekend before had been reblessed as part of the November graveyard ceremonies.
The committee was awaiting a glazier to install toughened glass in place of the Perspex, he added.
“It is very hard to fathom what is behind this,” Mr O’Mahony went on. “This would appear to be blatant desecration.”
Both he and his colleagues on the graveyard committee are appalled at the act.
“Quite apart from being upsetting to the members of the public, this is the graveyard of the most under-privileged who deserve a bit of respect in death, respect that was not shown them in life.”
The graveyard committee began its work of restoring the graveyard about 20 years ago, Mr O’Mahony explained. At the time, it was in a very, very bad state of disrepair, he added.
“It was a field with a cross in it,” he said, with nothing to mark it as a graveyard.
But considerable work has been done since to show respect to those buried there. New commemorative gates, designed by sculptor Cliodhna Cussen, have been installed, walls have been repaired and the plots maintained.
The graveyard dates back to the late 1840s, Mr O’Mahony believes. Initially it was known as a Pauper’s Graveyard and there are few records of those buried there and few marked graves.
“This is the burial ground of the poorest of the poor,” he added.
The incident at the weekend has been reported to gardai, Mr O’Mahony said. He is hoping however that somebody may have seen something and will come forward with information that could help the investigation.