Campaigners rally in defence of Tara
Campaigners rally in defence of Tara

Campaigners opposed to the route of the M3 motorway through the ancient city of Tara carried the flags of all 32 counties in a protest march in Dublin on Saturday.

More than a thousand people gathered at the Garden of Remembrance and marched to the Department of the Environment at the Custom House. The marchers included the artists Louis le Brocquy and Anne Madden.

A smaller group of campaigners then moved their protest to Cloverhill Prison, where four conservationists are being held after being arrested while defending the partially-excavated archaeological site earlier this week.

Seven campaigners protesting against the route were arrested following clashes with construction workers and security personnel.

“The march was well attended, peaceful and powerful. The Gardai [police] were very helpful and friendly and the crowd were very positive,” Laura Grealish of TaraWatch said.

“Apparently Minister Gormley is getting annoyed at people saying that he does have the power to change the M3 route. Perhaps that explains why there were no Green Party representatives at the march today, unlike previous ones,” she said.

“We filled O’Connell Street,” said Vincent Salafia of Tara Watch.

“A flag from each of the 32 counties was carried during the march, and I think there was someone from every county representing them too.

“It was very successful and we worked closely with gardai who said they were pleased with the crowd.

“We didn’t want the chance of any problems or anybody sabotaging the march.”

A petition calling on Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Minister for the Environment John Gormley to re-route the M3 was delivered to the department on Monday.

Spokesman for the protesters Vincent Salafia said the seven protesters were arrested on the grounds that they were blocking traffic on the road, but he pointed out that they were not in the public highway when protesting.

The rotesters stood in fields in the midst of the archaeologically-sensitive area in an effort to prevent the start of work on the site.

TaraWatch has always conducted peaceful protests, Mr Salafia said, but acccused security personnel of using heavy-handed tactics.

Laura Grealish said she was hirself knocked to the ground by the workers as she attempted to take photographs of protesters attempting to block the gates to the site.

Four of those arrested were jailed for a week after they refused to comply with bail conditions requiring them to stay away from the motorway site.

The four men, who range in age from 20 to 70, were remanded in custody at Cloverhill Prison pending their next court appearance on Wednesday at the Navan District Court.

The campaigners vowed to continue their protest and will be looking at taking further legal action against the contractors.

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