Belfast Telegraph

Cultural vandalism on Devenish Island: Police probe as arsonists hit grave at ancient site

By Linda Stewart

Devenish Island has survived the threat of fire, ruin and Viking raids over hundreds of years.

But a 19th century gravestone marking the resting place of the parents of the "last prince of Fermanagh", wasn't proof against vandalism. Police in Fermanagh are investigating after the slab was destroyed by fire during the last week.

Inspector Roy Robinson said: "A 19th century grave slab, marking the grave of the parents of the 'last prince of Fermanagh' was damaged by fire, causing the flat stone to crack in several places, resulting in the destruction of most of the transcription."

The grave slab lay within the Maguire mausoleum on the island and commemorated Philip Maguire of Enniskillen, who died in 1806 aged 84, and Margaret Maguire, who died in 1811 aged 74.

Until last week it read: 'In their memory was this simple pledge of respect - dedicated by their Son-in-law Peter Maguire Doctor of Medecine'.

Devenish is Lough Erne's most important island monastery and was founded in the sixth century by St Molaise. It is one of a number of holy islands in the lough which were once stages of the pilgrimage route to Lough Derg during the Middle Ages.

Last night a DoE spokesman said: "Devenish monastic site is a unique, tranquil, and beautiful place. It has been threatened before by fire and ruin, in days of warfare and even Viking attack hundreds of years ago.

"But in the modern day there can be no place for vandalism at this site, or indeed the destruction of gravestones and property."

The island is home to one of the finest monastic complexes in Northern Ireland, including a perfect 12th century round tower, along with the substantial ruins of three churches and two graveyards, including an unusual cross. Devenish became a centre of scholarship despite Viking incursions in 837 and a fire in 1157.

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