Irish Republican News · May 2, 2007
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Important find vindicates ‘Save Tara’ campaign

Just 24 hours after the 26 County Minister for Transport ‘turned the sod’ on the billion-Euro M3 motorway project in Co Meath it has been confirmed that a site of major archaeological importance has been discovered.

The large circular enclosure is clearly visible on a hillside at Lismullen in the Tara-Skryne valley. It most probably would have been used for ceremonial purposes by the kings and chieftains of Tara, the legendary ancient capital of Ireland.

The site, a giant henge thought to date from the Iron Age, is in the path of the motorway and the find has reignited efforts to prevent its destruction and preserve the environment of the historic valley.

The TaraWatch group, which has been campaigning for the motorway to be rerouted, said it was now “legally incumbent on the Minister to halt works, place a preservation order on the site and reroute the M3 motorway like he did in Waterford in 2005 when he rerouted the N25 to avoid a large Viking site in Woodstown”.

The group has sent solicitor’s letters to the Minister for the Environment, the Minister for Transport, Meath County Council and the National Roads Authority asking that all works on the site cease immediately.

Its spokesman, Vincent Salafia, said: “This site is a show-stopper and is without doubt a national monument of world significance. It would be a sin to demolish it. Legal and expert advice is being taken with a view to seeking an interlocutory injunction in order to secure the site before it can be demolished.”

The ancient site did not appear in any of allegedly “extensive” tests carried out in advance of the project. Current plans indicate the site will be bulldozed to make way for the motorway.

Mr Salafia alleged Environment Minister Dick Roche had already taken the decision to demolish the ancient find - though the minister denied the allegation.

Mr Salafia said documentation has already been drafted on the Government’s plans for the site. “In these directions, Minister Roche directs that the national monument be preserved ‘by record’,” he said.

“In other words, excavations will resume in a matter of days, and the massive enclosure will then be demolished.”

The Meath Archaeological and Historical Group said that the discovery was unique and called for work to stop. The group expressed concern at the “unseemly haste” in the construction of the motorway at the Tara-Skryne valley.

“We were promised no work would begin on the road until [archaeological excavations] were all complete and that promise has been broken,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Campaign to Save Tara is distributing about 100,000 flyers in advance of the general election with the aim of making the M3 motorway a “make or break” issue.

Outlining the campaign’s election strategy, its spokesman Michael Canney, said it was asking people to “consider each candidate’s and party’s position on the route to the ballot box”.

“We will encourage people to vote for the candidates who provide written commitments that they will support a review of the route [ through the Gabhra Valley, east of the Hill of Tara] if they are elected to government”.

It was not “just another road through a scenic place, but something that will alter an entire archaeological landscape”.

An independent poll in 2005 found only 25 per cent of those surveyed wanted the M3 to go ahead as planned.

Mr Canney said the campaign aimed to “translate the deep unease people feel about this issue into a positive outcome in the election”, adding that the “anti-Tara parties - Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the PDs - will be forced to deal with it on the doorsteps”.

Although the group was pleased with support from the Labour Party, the Green Party and Sinn Féin, he said it was vital these parties maintained their position if they entered into talks to form a government.

Dr Muireann Ni Bhrolchain, senior lecturer in Celtic studies at NUI Maynooth, said: “If the Gabhra Valley is not safe, nowhere in Ireland is safe from future development in the spurious name of progress.”

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© 2007 Irish Republican News