The theft of an ancient relic from an Abbey in Co. Tipperary has boosted the number of tourists visiting the historic site, according to the local parish priest.

The gold and bronze crucifix, which is believed to include a piece of the real cross on which Jesus died, was stolen from Holycross Abbey in Thurles, Co Tipperary, in October.

Father Tom Breen has said that the theft has actually resulted in a surge of visitors to the Abbey.

"Visitor numbers have actually increased. Human curiosity is a wonderful thing," said Fr Breen.

"We're getting a lot of devotion here. We hold a novena here in September which attracts large numbers, but we have had busloads of visitors arriving since October," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I'd say this year we have had close to a quarter of a million," said Fr Breen, who estimates the site usually attracts an average of 200,000 visitors per year.
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The theft sparked national outrage in October when two masked men raided the abbey and used an angle grinder to cut open the steel-framed glass display in which the 12 inch artifact was displayed.

"The community is still grieving over the theft - the loss of all that history," said Fr Breen.

"The thieves probably overestimated the value of the crosses. They are invaluable.
"What they would have considered gold was actually mainly brass, so they would not have got much for it after all," Fr Breen added.