12 May 2005

Daily Ireland

Protesters will block M3 route

Furious campaigners have vowed to prevent work beginning on a motorway beside Ireland's most important heritage site.
The Irish government yesterday gave the go-ahead to the controversial M3 motorway which will run past the world-famous Hill of Tara in Co Meath, the former seat of the High Kings of Ireland.
The new motorway is to replace the N3 road from Clonee to Kells, Co Meath and is designed to ease serious traffic congestion in and out of Dublin on this stretch of road.
By giving the go-ahead for the motorway, the government has ignored advice from leading archaeologists, conservationists and local campaigners opposed to the destruction of Tara and even the Director of the National Museum of Ireland, who all made representations in a bid to prevent them from proceeding with the controversial road.
Ciarán Ó Sé, from campaign group Gaeil Óga, yesterday said his group will do everything in their power to save Tara from the roadbuilders.
“We feel compelled to do whatever it takes, even if that means lying on the road in front of the bulldozers," he said.
Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, yesterday said he had approved major archaeological digs along the proposed route. This means he has given the all-clear for bulldozers to move in and begin excavation work around the Hill of Tara.
The proposed route for the 60 kilometre stretch of motorway has no less than 141 archaeological sites in its path.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Dick Roche said he recommended “stringent” conditions on the M3 project, including reports from professional archaeologists and regular inspection by state experts.
He also said all artefacts uncovered will be deposited in the National Museum.
Mr Roche’s announcement is expected to be met with a stiff legal challenge by campaigners.
Vincent Salafia is a solicitor and PRO for the Save Tara-Skryne Valley campaign. He said: “This is complete lunacy and it’s exactly what we’ve been trying to avoid. It’s another Carrickmines situation.”
This refers to an ongoing legal battle between the government and conservationists who have taken the government to court over a road they are building near Carrickmines Castle in north Co Dublin.
The judge in that case made legal history when she recognised the government had a constitutional duty to protect the country’s heritage.
It is on this basis that campaigners will challenge Mr Roche’s decision over Tara in the High Court.
Any action will call into question the National Monuments Act 2004. Last year, the then Minister for Heritage, Environment and Local Government, Martin Cullen, amended the original Act when it seemed protesters would halt work at Carrickmines.
Mr Salafia believes the government’s decision is actually part of a wider strategy to have the National Monuments Act go through the law courts and succeed in being deemed legal.
“This is about the planning of future motorways, not just Tara,” Mr Salafia said. “Carrickmines was their flagship public/private partnership project. If this succeeds they will get a clear route to carry out any other projects.”
Green Party TD, Ciarán Cuffe, said: “This is a bad day for history, heritage and the Hill of Tara. It is an enormous mistake. We all want progress but not at this cost.”

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