STATUES of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus were desecrated by vandals who ran riot on two nights in Portlaoise over Christmas.
The statues were stolen from the crib in the Top Square, smashed up and found later some distance from the crib.
"We're just so disappointed," said Cllr Kathleen O'Brien, who is also a member of St Joseph's Accordion Band who erected the crib and the lights in the Square. Cllr O'Brien described the incident as "bizarre".
The first incident happened on St Stephen's night when statues of Our Lady and the baby Jesus were taken from the crib.
"We traced them to the Mounthrath Road. Our Lady had been smashed to pieces but baby Jesus was salvagable so we put him back in the crib. We moved another statue to the front and put a shawl around it to make it look like Our Lady," Cllr O'Brien explained.
Last Tuesday night (December 28), the mesh wire on the crib was cut and Our Lady and baby Jesus was once again removed from the crib. Nothing else was touched except those two statues. There is a music player and lights in the crib but they were left alone. St Joseph wasn't touched either. I don't know why just those two statues would be targeted. I'm puzzled and amazed. The statue of Our Lady was about 38 inches high - somebody must have seen something," she said.
The three figures of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus cost in the region of E400 and were bought new for the crib this year. Cllr O'Brien said she was disappointed for the local Traveller Enterprise Centre who had made the crib.
"It would dishearten you, but we're not going to let this beat us. I feel sorry for the people of the town, everyone was looking forward to the rosary at midnight on New Year's Eve at the shrine," she said.
Cllr O'Brien has put a small crib in place of the two statues and a picture of the nativity scene which was presented to her by the Laois International School.