One of Ireland's ancient monuments, the Lia Fáil standing stone has been vandalised.

According to legend, it served as the coronation stone for the high kings.

Minister for Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan has confirmed the granite Lia Fáil, which is Irish for Stone of Destiny, appeared to have been damaged last weekend.

An archaeologist from the National Monuments Service examined the stone and concluded that it had been struck - possibly with a hammer - at 11 places, on all four of its faces.

Fragments of the standing stone have been removed and gardaí are investigating.

Describing it as "extremely important" monument, Minister Deenihan said the stone was associated with the inauguration rites for the Kings of Tara and featured extensively in ancient texts.

"Vandalism, by definition, is a mindless act. I condemn in the strongest terms the damage that has been caused to this monument," he said.

The stone was moved to its present location in Tara, Co Meath, in the early 19th century.

Located about 50km northwest of Dublin, Tara was the focus of political and religious life in pagan Ireland but the site was largely abandoned by the sixth century.

Mythology gives Tara (from the Gaelic "Teamhair", or lofty place) an exalted status as the top royal site in Ireland and there are many national monuments in the area.