A FARMER will avoid jail but faces a "substantial" fine for demolishing a ring fort on land belonging to his family.
In the first case of its kind in Irish courts, John O'Mahony pleaded guilty to carrying out unauthorised work near a monument on his family's farmland in February 2008.
The lands contained a ring fort and a series of underground tunnels, or souterrains, which dated back to between 500AD and 100AD.
The ring fort and souterrain system were deemed to be national monuments of historic importance and had been placed on a national register.
Judge Carroll Moran further adjourned sentencing O'Mahony of Clashmealcon, Causeway, Co Kerry, at Tralee Circuit Court yesterday, to obtain evidence of his income.
However, the judge indicated that a fine would have to be substantial. The maximum penalty is five years in prison or a fine of €50,000.
Landowners are required to notify the Department of the Environment of their intention to carry out works near a national monument and have to obtain written permission from the minister before they can proceed.
However, in February 2008 O'Mahony hired workers who demolished part of the ring fort and the souterrains.
He used the materials to fill in a nearby pond, which he told the court he believed could pose a risk to children and livestock.
When the Department of the Environment learned of the demolition, they notified gardai.
O'Mahony had initially claimed he was not aware of the significance of the ring fort.
However, in the course of the investigation, it emerged he had previously objected to a planning application to construct four houses on the same site on the grounds that it contained a ring fort.
Yesterday, the court heard that restoration of the structure was not possible.
The defence said O'Mahony regretted what happened and apologised.
Judge Moran adjourned the matter until February 21 so that evidence of O'Mahony's means could be produced.
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