Govt condemned as ‘desecration’ motorway opens
Govt condemned as ‘desecration’ motorway opens

The opening on Saturday of the M3 motorway past Tara, the ancient capital of Ireland, was a day that heritage campaigners had hoped would never come.

Leading Irish writer, Colm Toibin, joined the condemnations for the construction of the motorway, through the Hill of Tara landscape and archaeological complex.

He has joined the long list of celebrities and artists, including Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Louis le Brocquy, Jim Fitzpatrick, Robert Ballagh, and the Chieftains, who have condemned the M3 motorway, along with arts group Aosdana.

Speaking from Kerry where he is Chairman of the Listowel Writer’s Week Mr. Toibin said:

“The desecration of the landscape around Tara is shameful, short-sighted and beyond belief. In a time when Ireland needs places which have a sacred aura and a special beauty more than ever, it is sad to see those who have misruled our country ganging up on our heritage.’

His words echo those of Seamus Heaney, who told BBC in March 2008: “If ever there was a place that deserved to be preserved in the name of the dead generations from pre-historic times up to historic times up to completely recently - it was Tara.”

He called the M3 a “ruthless desecration”, and said: “I think it literally desecrates an area - I mean the word means to de-sacralise and for centuries the Tara landscape and the Tara sites have been regarded as part of the sacred ground.”

Protestors were denied a last attempt to protest by a Garda police presence which ensured that their banners were kept at a distance from the official ceremony.

Some were prevented from reaching the Athboy interchange overpass, which is where most of the protesters gathered.

“The gardai tried to arrest us a few times and said you can’t walk on the new road, you can’t park on the road,” said Dan Maloney who assembled with a small number of activists near the Navan slip-road to the new motorway.

Archaeologist Emma Dowling said she would rather the motorway had not been built. “I feel quite sad and disappointed and upset, but I’m hopeful that we can get a preservation order on the [Tara/Skryne] valley so that a future Government would revise the decision and try and do something else.”

While the M3 motorway opened this week, the controversy will continue for years to come. The European Commission is currently taking a case against Ireland, in the European Court of Justice, for breach of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, due to the decision to demolish a national monument, Lismullin.

Tara is being nominated to UNESCO to be a World Heritage Site, this July. Professor George Eogan, Professor Emeritus of Archaeology at UCD has said it is likely that UNESCO will not be pleased that a motorway has been just opened in the middle of the very site they are being asked to protect.

Tara was also placed on the List of 100 Most Endangered Sites by the World Monuments Fund (WMF) in 2006, and other international organisations, such as the Smithsonian Institution, the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), Sacred Sites International, and the World Archaeological Congress (WAC).

The Heritage Council is piloting the Tara Skryne Landscape Conservation Area, which covers a large area around Tara, and will place planning restrictions on both sides of the motorway. Finally, a human rights complaint is being prepared for the UN, which will detail the the litany of human rights abuses that have facilitated the construction of the M3.

Matt Schwoebel head of the 2048 Project at University of Berkeley law school, California, who was detained by Immigration officials at Dublin Airport and sent back to the US last November, said yesterday: “The human right to heritage sites of particular historical and religious significance is recognized in international law.

“These special places are inextricably connected to how people define themselves as communities and families. “The response by the government and police forces to the concerns of people raised during the protests are also of particular concern, and should be rectified accordingly.” The complaint will be presented to the UN and UNESCO this summer.

Vincent Salafia of TaraWatch said: “We have been completely vindicated in our campaign against the route of this road. The majority of Irish people, including most of our leading artists, as well as the EU and the major international archaeological bodies, have condemned it.

“The same reckless disregard for ethics, rights and regulation that brought down the economy, was employed to bulldoze this road through.

“The real kicker is yet to come, when traffic levels will show that the taxpayer will start paying millions of euros every year to the toll company, because of traffic fails to meet the traffic guarantee which was secretly written into the M3 contract by the NRA.”

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