VANDALS have daubed paint over a stone used in the crowning of the ancient High Kings of Ireland on the Hill of Tara in Co Meath.
The Lia Fáil, or Coronation Stone, dates back thousands of years to the De Dannan and Milesian people.
Legend has it that the stone would “shout out” when the new rightful Ard Ri or High King touched it.
Arts and Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan last night condemned “this act of mindless vandalism on one of our premier archeological sites”.
He described the damage as “truly shameful.”
Gardai are carrying out a forensic examination of the Lia Fail Stone, considered an extremely important national monument which features extensively in ancient texts.
The granite stone stands on top of the Hill of Tara in the middle of a rath known as An Forradh - The King’s Seat.
Touching the stone - and being chosen by it - was one of several trials that the new High King would have to pass before being appointed.
When Office of Public Works Guides arrived at the site yesterday morning, they found the stone had been vandalised with paint at some time on Wednesday evening.
Immediately staff from the National Monuments Service (NMS) were sent to the site to provide archeological expertise to ensure the damage was repaired as speedily and effectively as possible.
Mr Deenihan appealed to anyone with information about the incident or those responsible to inform the gardai.
Describing the stone as “one of our most iconic ancient monuments”, he said that the national monuments at Tara - which included this standing stone - formed part of the national heritage and history.
They were cherished not just here, but were also internationally renowned, he added.
The monument was damaged before in 2012, when it was struck by a heavy instrument like a hammer.
The Lia Fail originally stood near the Mound of the Hostages, but was moved to its present position in 1798, to mark the graves of 400 rebels who were buried on the hill after a battle.