A BUILDING belonging to the historic 17th century Kirkistown Castle has come under attack by vandals for the second time in four months.

Paraphernalia of drug abuse was found when the damage was discovered on Sunday evening (August 20).                                       

A cottage at the castle, which comprises a three storey Norman tower house and surrounding wall – or bawn – suffered damage from vandals, with syringes also found at the sight indicating illegal misuse of unknown substances.

It is the second incidence of vandalism at the castle site in recent months, with windows being smashed and stone walls damaged in an attack over the weekend of May 6-7. 

The castle is closed to the public at the moment, a step understood to have been taken to secure the site, with archaeologists from the Department for Communities (DfC) Heritage and Environment Division expected to inspect the damage this week.

The DfC has described the incident as a ‘mindless act of violence’.

It is not yet known whether the castle will be reopened in time for the annual European Heritage Open Day which takes place over the weekend of September 9 and 10.

The current tower house was built in 1622 by Roland Savage, a Norman landlord, who erected it on the site of a ninth century round tower. It was occupied until 1730 but was deserted from that time.

The tower has undergone a number of alterations over its history and was extensively remodelled in a neo-gothic style in the early 19th century.

It fell into disrepair in the intervening years but was opened to the public for the first time in 2001 by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

Ards and North Down councillor Joe Boyle has described the attack on the Norman tower house as ‘wanton vandalism’.

The Portaferry representative said he ‘really wonders what goes through people’s heads at times’.

Branding the incident as ‘absolute madness’ Mr Boyle said: “There was significant damage caused to property and clearly there was a level of syringe activity, which in itself is very worrying.”

The councillor said he and the community feel disheartened by the incident: “There are so many good people doing so much great cross community work in Cloughey, and the community rejects outright this form of behaviour in their village and does not want to be associated with those who bring nothing but vandalism and worse to the area.”

He has appealed for those carrying out their anti-social behaviour at the historic site to bring a halt to their destructive activity.

He stated: “I would appeal to those involved in this criminality activity to desist immediately and respect the wishes of the residents who want to build a better Cloughey and enhance its facilities so that everyone can enjoy either living within or visiting the area for all the right reasons.”

Mr Boyle concluded: “I would ask that anyone with any information with reference to this latest attack on Kirkistown Castle premises to report such information to the PSNI, we need to apprehend such people and present them to the courts to face the full rigour of the law as a matter of urgency.”

The Department for Communities has urged anyone with information to tell the police.

“We are deeply disappointed by, and strongly condemn, this latest incident of trespass and vandalism at the Kirkistown Castle site in County Down. Damage to a cottage that forms part of this significant State Care Monument was reported to the PSNI after being discovered during a recent visit by staff from the department’s Historic Environment Division.

“The Department is treating this mindless act of vandalism, in the environs of such an important archaeological site, very seriously and our works team will ensure the damage is addressed.

“We would urge anyone with any information on this incident to contact the PSNI.”

A spokesman for the police confirmed the incident had been reported, adding that the Peninsula neighbourhood policing team was looking into the incident.