OFFALY County Council will replace the manmade structure at the top of Croghan Hill after it was broken up in an act of vandalism.
The pillar-like feature, which was originally a triangulation station used for surveying purposes, stood at the peak of the 234-metre high hill.
Walkers noticed the damage in the last week or so and there is evidence a fire was lit at the top of the hill where the remains of a burnt out tyre was seen.
One of the first to witness the damage was Edenderry woman Christine Traynor, who walked to the top of the hill on Saturday, January 26 last.
She said that in addition to the broken structure, there was extensive damage to the grassy area around it.
“I went up, just myself and my son for a walk and we walked all the way to the top, looking for the beautiful view,” she said.
“We were just absolutely astounded to see [the damage]. It was such a shock... there was some sort of fire at the top. Obviously it was deliberate.”
The field around the summit of Croghan Hill, an extinct volcano and the most prominent geographical landmark in north Offaly, was bought by Offaly County Council last year.
Amanda Pedlow, heritage officer with the council, said she only became aware of the damage last week and confirmed it “wasn’t a natural occurrence”.
It had been “partly damaged” previously but it is now broken virtually beyond repair.
“We will be planning to replace it because it is very much a feature in the profile of the hill on the skyline,” said Ms Pedlow.
In relation to more extensive plans to develop the hilltop as a visitor attraction, Ms Pedlow said the council will be submitting proposals to the Department of Heritage for consents because it is an archaeological monument.
Ms Traynor, a Fianna Fail candidate for a seat on Offaly County Council in the forthcoming local elections, said it was disturbing that a monument like Croghan Hill, which is the location of an ancient burial ground, should be damaged in this way.
“On St Patrick’s Day, thousands of people, including kids, go there. We walk up there every year and I know that would be quite disturbing for a lot of families to get to the top and realise that damage was there,” she said.