There has been angry reaction in country Kerry to news that the cross on the summit of Carrauntoohil has been cut down. The 5m metal cross had been a prominent landmark on Ireland's highest point since its erection in 1976. Now someone's taken an angle grinder to it, and left it lying where it fell.
Writing on the Kerry Climbing website, local guide Piaras Kelly, one of the first to discover the damage on Saturday 22 November, says the act represents a 'new low on Ireland's highest', calling it 'shocking'.
'Horrified today while guiding a group from the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland to witness the result of a total act of vandalism on Corrán Tuathail with the summit cross after being cut down' he went on.
'An iconic cross on an iconic peak now lying where it fell. It beggers belief ...no matter what ones personal attitude to this cross... A sad day for sure.'
Many of Ireland's mountains have a religious significance. The Carrauntoohil cross was built by volunteers nearly 40 years ago, and assembled in situ on the mountain.
Piaras says the cross was last seen standing last Thursday, 20 November. Friday was a bad weather day with the summit invisible; by the time he and his group arrived on top on Saturday the damage had been done.
Here he explains why he's so upset:
'Of the thousands of times I have summited Corrán Tuathail/Carrauntoohil in all manner of weathers and seasons from blistering sunny days, white out snow conditions with zero visibility to horrendous storms I have never just viewed the cross as a pure religious symbol but just as confirmation of the fact that I've reached the top' he told us.
'I am a guide and so agree fully with and actively promote the ethos and ethics of Leave no Trace. If this or any other mountain for that matter never had a cross or any other structure then I'd of course be one of the first out actively canvassing against any such structure being put in place or erected, but this is different.'
'It has been there for close on 40 years and is a structure & symbol that represents lots things to many people, to some it is deeply religious, others a bloody eyesore but whatever it means to anyone it is something that was put there in a different time, with different ethics and by the local community, with the permission and understanding of the people who own the very land it stands on.'
'Unfortunately we don't have the same rights to roam as you do in the UK or Europe and due to this fact it is totally at the discretion of the farmers and landowners whether even to allow us enter these lands or not. '
'And in this regard no matter what one's personal views are regarding man made structures of any type on the summits of our high and wild places it is vital firstly that we respect the landowners who permit access to their lands, to the wider community which represents the people living on and around these lands, and also the long chequered history associated with these mountains which has brought us to this point in time.'
'My personal thoughts on seeing this act of vandalism is sadness and shock. Not because of any insult to any Christian God or because the summit looks less pleasing in any way but purely because it is an insult to the landowners (many of who's fathers and grandfathers would have been part of the effort to erect this cross) and the memories they possess, an insult to the local community who came together and toiled to erect this, an insult to the church which it represents and means so much to so many and an lastly an insult to the many who see this cross not as a Christian symbol but as a historic mark of achievement on reaching the highest point in the land.'
'[I think] this was just an extreme case of blatant vandalism, nothing else. Not anti-Christian, pro- leave wild places wild or anything else for that matter. Just pure thuggery and a disgusting act of spitefulness.'
Local Gardai are investigating the destruction of the cross. MacGillycuddy's Reeks Mountain Access Forum will be meeting later today to discuss possible options, and it is expected that they'll organise its re-erection.