Public anger as Fermanagh's ancient Castle Tully's garden razed to the ground
The sudden removal of ornamental gardens from the grounds of a popular Fermanagh castle has been blasted as "civil service vandalism" by locals.
For the last 20 years Castle Tully, situated near the village of Blaney, has been well known for its formal box garden on the castle front.
But a decision by the Department for Communities to cut the garden away, replacing it with a lawn, has caused anger.
"There's a lot of people looking for an explanation" said David Bailey, owner of Blaney Caravan parks.
"I'm a tourist provider in the area and Tully Castle is one of the things I use to sell my business. I'm very disappointed that someone in a government department would do this just to cut the cloth to suit measures. It's civil service vandalism."
"We had an event on Saturday and everyone was just mortified with what they've done with the castle, to make a ruthless decision like that without consulting anyone."
Tom Elliott, UUP MP for Fermanagh, said he was "deeply concerned" the changes would hurt local tourism.
"There is considerable outrage and discontent from people within the local community regarding the eradication of the gardens," he said. "Many tourists from Northern Ireland and further afield visit the gardens, along with the stunningly located Castle to explore these beautifully landscaped gardens and lakeside walks."
Last week the Department for Communities published a picture on Twitter of Castle Tully still featuring the ornamental gardens.
Yesterday a departmental spokesperson said: "An ornamental garden was planted within the bawn enclosure around 20 years ago. With the passage of time, the vegetation within the garden had become over-mature and much of it needed to be removed."
"Taking into account the most likely landscaping when the castle was occupied, the Department decided that it was most authentic to replace the ornamental garden with lawns."
They continued: "The work to do this is largely complete. No monuments or ancient structures have been removed from the site as a result of these works. The works were completed as a necessary management task and not to save costs."
Mr Bailey said no-one had been given a chance to make their views known.
"Castle Tully has a lot of history. In 1641 there was a massacre of Scottish settlers by the Maguire clan where those hedges were. Local people always felt the garden paid respect to them.
"If they had a problem with maintenance we are a rural community with lots of community volunteers, I'm sure if they had been approached they would have been happy to help. But instead they just went ahead and desecrated the place completely."