TWENTY-FOUR HOUR security has been set up at a cemetery in Co. Cork after a number of graves were desecrated - causing thousands of euros worth of damage.
Cork City Council decided to put measures in place to prevent more damage to the site after 20 headstones were knocked off their plinths and a number of statues were smashed in St Catherine's Cemetery in Kilcully.
Empty alcohol bottles were found at the scene.
Many were left shocked and distressed at the seemingly random and unprovoked act of vandalism, with a number of people deeply upset that the graves of their relatives had been desecrated.
As such, security personnel will be stationed at the cemetery for the foreseeable future, while gardai conduct an investigation.
A spokesperson for Cork City Council said: "A number of headstones were knocked off their plinths (approx. 20) and minor damage caused to some small statues.
"There are a few thousand headstones in the cemetery and thankfully the vast majority were not touched. We have a fixed security presence on site for the foreseeable future."
20 HEADSTONES RUINED IN KILKULLY
Major damage took place in St Catherine's cemetery, Kilcully again this morning. About 20 headstones were destroyed. We have been in contact with a number of families who have loved ones buried in the Graveyard.
Have your family been impacted? pic.twitter.com/zgIL7hYy02
— Neil Prendeville (@NeilRedFM) January 3, 2020
Speaking to Cork newspaper Echo Live, local man and campaigner for the elderly Paddy O'Brien described the heartbreaking atmosphere as families arrived at St Catherine's to check on their loved ones.
"It's an awful sight," Mr O'Brien said.
"The place was packed. I'm going to hundreds of funerals here and I've never seen so many cars. I've never seen so many people upset, crying with tears.
"It's appalling. I was looking at one grave, I spoke to the family. Her wish was that she would be buried under a tree. The whole thing is gone, destroyed. They've taken away the stone.
"There are families here crying. My own wife is buried here."
Local Sinn Féin councillor, Thomas Gould, said that he has never seen vandalism of this scale at a cemetery in Cork.
"We have had vandalism over the years but nothing like this. This was very vicious and nasty and whoever did this is without a moral compass," said Gould.
"There is a substantial cost involved for families in replacing these headstones. It also happened over a very emotional time for families during the Christmas and New Year period.
"We have to look in to putting CCTV footage in the graveyard itself. It is shocking to see headstones knocked over and smashed and ornaments damaged."