Part of the ancient Irish capital of Tara dating from the seventh century has been dismantled this week to make way for the controversial M3 motorway.
Campaigners spoke of the irony of the development in advance of celebrations over the St Patrick’s Day weekend.
The saint is directly associated with the area through various legends, such as the lighting of a Pascal fire on the hill of Slane nearby.
Vincent Salafia of the TaraWatch group said Roestown should have been listed as a national monument, and accused the NRA of having “rushed in and demolished the site” before it had a chance of receiving protected status.
“This is the St Patrick’s Day gift that the Irish Government has given to Irish people around the world,” he said. “While the Government Ministers are swanning around the globe preaching the gospel of climate change, at home they are advancing one of the most environmentally and culturally damaging projects ever conceived.”
The buildings at Roestown, on one of the largest historical sites discovered along the proposed route, were logged and then dismantled by a team from the National Roads Authority (NRA) in advance of work on the road.
Dating back 1,300 years, they are the first stone archaeological features to be taken down as part of the motorway project.
Vehement protests and legal actions have so far failed to dissuade the Dublin government from building the new highway through the renowned Tara-Skyrme valley site.
Historians and archaeologists attached to the ‘Save Tara’ campaign said the buildings, just north of Dunshaughlin, were likely part of a royal site and therefore directly linked to the Hill of Tara.
Celtic scholar Dr Muireann Ni Bhrolchain said the discovery of artefacts, including gaming board, indicated a “very high class site, probably inhabited by a king”. Under Celtic laws the use of such gaming boards was confined to royalty.
She said Roestown was one of four major ancient sites discovered along the route and backs up claims by a number of experts that the area of royal Tara was much larger than the hill itself and extended along the Tara Skryne Valley, through the proposed route of the motorway.
“What the archaeologists working for the NRA have uncovered are the living places and the burial places of the people associated with Tara,” she said.