Irish Republican News · May 13, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]

The 26 County government has given final approval to the construction of a motorway through the Hill of Tara, the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland.

The site is widely regarded as the most important historic location in Ireland.

Experts from throughout the world have expressed shock at the plans to build a motorway in the Tara-Skryne Valley, which is rich in archaeology dating back thousands of years.

Despite this, Mr Roche has now approved the excavation of sites to make way for the road. The decision is likely to be met with a raft of legal challenges from people determined to protect the Tara landscape.

“The directions which I have given represent a measured approach,” said the Minister. “They are both comprehensive and onerous. They protect heritage. But do not deny the people of Meath and the surrounding counties the modern transport infrastructure that they need,” he said.

More than 200 academics wrote to 26-County Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and Mr Roche last month “seeking to avoid a cultural calamity that will bring shame on Ireland”.

The site was the original cultural capital of Ireland and attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Tara was once the most powerful of Ireland’s five kingdoms and tribal disputes as well as peace and defence issues were once settled there at national assemblies held every three years.

But its importance diminished as Christianity became established in Ireland and little now remains to indicate the area’s one-time eminence.

Three years ago, a team from the Department of Archaeology at Galway University uncovered new monuments in the area, some dating back to 4000 BC. One of the most spectacular finds has been of a huge oval enclosure the same size as Croke Park stadium, thought to have been constructed around 2500 BC.

Opposition parties have condemned the decision.

Labour’s environment spokesman Eamon Gilmore described it as “a betrayal of the country’s Celtic heritage that will result in the destruction of the Tara landscape”.

“The minister for the environment had full discretion to decide not to grant permits under the National Monuments Act. This would have resulted in the National Roads Authority and An Bord Pleanala having to reconsider the route of the proposed motorway,” he said.

The Green Party’s Ciaran Cuffe said the move was “an enormous mistake”, adding: “A motorway and a spaghetti junction this close to one of the most historic and sacred sites in Ireland is an enormous mistake. This is a bad day for history, for heritage and for the Hill of Tara. We all want to see progress, but not at the cost of our heritage.”

Meath Sinn Féin Councillor, Joe Reilly said the decision meant that the M3 “will not be built anytime soon, and when it is the Tara landscape will be irreparably damaged.”

Speaking in Meath today he said, “Today’s decision by Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche to allow construction of the M3 through the Tara area is a decision which will damage an irreplaceable part Meath’s heritage, and could delay the roads construction for hard pressed commuters. The Tara-Skryne valley is an archaeological lobsterpot from which the M3 may take years to emerge due to legal challenges.”

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© 2005 Irish Republican News