Northern Ireland

County Down: Work near protected site sparks probe

Knock Iveagh hill where the cairn stands
Image caption Knock Iveagh hill where the cairn stands

An investigation has begun after work close to a scheduled Neolithic monument in County Down.

Officials said some of it "may have been" within the area protected by law.

Knock Iveagh Cairn stands on a hilltop outside Rathfriland.

It is a large stone mound covered by earth and would have been used as an ancient burial chamber. It is one of 1,900 monuments protected by legislation in Northern Ireland.

Image caption The hill has commanding views of the County Down countryside

It is believed to date from around 3000 BC. Work was done close to the site in the middle of the week.

The Department for Communities has responsibility for protected monuments. Its officials have been to the site and spoken to the landowner and contractor.

Image caption Campaigners say more needs to be done to protect ancient landscapes

Armagh Banbridge Craigavon (ABC) Council said a telecoms mast had been erected without planning permission.

It has begun an enforcement action.

A spokesman said the council had received an application for retrospective permission for the mast on Friday.

Knock Iveagh Cairn is covered by the Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (NI) Order 1995. It is an offence to carry out changes to scheduled monuments without consent.

The maximum fine on conviction at the magistrates' court is £5,000.

The Knock Iveagh Action Group said the incident raised important wider issues about protection and preservation of ancient landscapes.