Environmental campaigners are to take legal action against the 26-County State to stop the destruction of heritage sites in the Tara valley during the construction of the M3 motorway.
TaraWatch was announcing the latest steps in the campaign to have the multi-million euro M3 motorway diverted away from the historic Hill of Tara site.
An Bord Pleanala, the state planning authority, last week approved construction work on the road through a recently discovered national monument at Lismullen, about 2km from the hill.
The important ceremonial site is part of an unexcavated Celtic and pre-Celtic city sprawling through the Tara/Skryne valley which, according to legend, could rival Egypt’s famed Valley of the Kings. Conservationists are campaigning to re-route the motorway away from the valley.
Minister for the Environment and Green part leader, John Gormley, has stuck by a claim that he is powerless to reverse the decision to destroy the monument, taken by his predecessor on his last day in office.
Gormley has also ignored the European Union’s petitions committee, which has said a route review should be carried out and is now the focus of legal efforts by heritage activists.
MEP Kathy Sinnott, who is vice-chair of the petitions committee, said the Government had failed to respond to a letter of warning from the European Commission.
“Two months ago, the European Commission sent a letter of final warning to the Irish government that the EIS (Environmental Impact Assessment), on which the M3 Motorway project is based, is invalid and that the National Monuments Act, on which the proposed destruction of Lismullen is based, is out of line with the EIA Directive on Tara,” she said.
“I do not at this stage know what the Government’s response will be to the Commission’s allegations but I am happy to say that today we are making our own response to the concern of the European Commission and of the European Parliament Petitions Committee and the thousands of friends of Tara in Ireland and around the world.”
Ms Sinnott said her group was proposing a viable and better alternative to the present destruction at Tara.
Sinn Féin MEP Mary Lou McDonald said a transport solution could be found that did not come at the expense of Irish heritage.
“Those opposing the construction of the road through the valley have put forward a viable alternative route. This route should have been used,” she said.
“Experts have time and again contested to the archaeological significance of the Tara/Skryne Valley and called for it to be preserved.
“The decision by An Bord Pleanala to allow the M3 Motorway to proceed along its original route, through the National Monument at Lismullen, is a blow to Irish heritage and history.”