Tara Valley M3 Plans Show Nothing is Beyond the Pale for the Road Lobby
Sunday Tribune 29 February 2004
There is no such thing as compromise once local authorities and the Department of the Environment decide a road should be built. They announce their plans, local residents come up with alternatives, these are ignored and An Bord Pleanala passes the original plans.
I'm the man on the Navan bus. Every day, morning and evening you'll see me huddled in a seat, wrapped in headphones and listening to Morning Ireland or the Last Word. I've been doing it for years. I know the N3 intimately now, every bump in the road, every signpost and pothole. I know all the sheep in the fields by their first names. I know where all the traffic snarls are, and the feeling of frustration that comes with being caught in them. I know how badly congested Dunsaughlin can get, and I really want to meet the genius who decided that three lanes of traffic should merge into one near Clonee. I know, too, the feeling of gratitude when the bus driver takes the short cut there and we can leave all the madness behind.
But I believe that the new motorway planned for the route, which would cut thirty minutes off a journey from Dublin to Cavan, is as unnecessary a road as has ever been built in this country, an act of infrastructural vandalism of a kind not seen since Dublin Corporation rogered Wood Quay senseless back in the 1970s and 1980s.
Almost 700 million euro is to be spent on saving those 1,800 seconds, and the road is to be directed right through the middle of the Tara / Skryne valley, a site that is "one of the most culturally and archaeologically significant places in the world", according to an impressive list of academics and campaigners from all over the globe.
According to these people, who hail from Ireland, England, Wales, Belgium, Australia and the United States, and who wrote to newspapers last week, "many monuments [there] predate the Egyptian pyramids. The chamber within Tara's Mound of the Hostages is perfectly aligned with the full moon of Lughnasa and the rising sun of Samhain and Imbolg."
"The Hill of Tara has been a sanctuary for every generation since. It is precisely because it has remained intact, unlike many comparable European sites, that it holds a special key to understanding the continuous progression of European civilization. We are only just beginning to understand and appreciate how the Mound relates to the hundreds of other monuments in the archaeological complex, many of which will be destroyed if the valley is sliced in two."
No doubt this will seem a bit limpwristed and weak-kneed to those who believe that the requirement to get home before the end of the Six One news justifies the introduction of diggers to such an historical site. And there are many such people. The row over the Carrickmines Castle site recently highlighted the huge gulf between environmentalists and commuters, whose lives are being daily frustrated by weaknesses in what passes for transport policy in this country. It is a tension that can only increase.
There should be no such tensions over the N3/M3 however, for the very simple reason that the traffic problems on the route are simply not bad enough to justify the destruction that will be caused. The N3, as currently laid out, is a relatively untroubled route in terms of traffic chaos. Certainly, there are some blackspots, but not many, and these can be dealt with locally. A small bypass around Dunsaughlin, for example, would solve the traffic problem there for a fraction of the cost of the proposed new motorway. Likewise in Navan and Kells.
The plan to build the M3, which will also require the destruction of acres of woodland in Dalgan Park near Navan, one of the few areas around the town where people can go for a walk, highlights the extent to which the road lobby has taken over the asylum. There is now no such thing as compromise once local authorities and the Department of the Environment decide that a road should be built. They announce their plans, local residents come up with alternatives, these are ignored and An Bord Pleanala passes the original plans without any serious consideration of whether they are actually needed.
The proposed new M9 from Kilcullen to Waterford, expected to cost one billion euros (which means, of course, much more) is another example of the madness of the roads lobby. It is already a decent enough road, and such traffic congestion as there is can be dealt with locally.
The M3 is a worse insult, however, and not just because of the damage that will be done to the Hill of Tara area, once described as "our ceremonial and mythical capital". Local residents, far removed from the Nimby stereotype that attaches to some protestors, have come up with a series of alternative plans that would allow the authorities to achieve their aims while leaving the Tara / Skryne area unaffected. Last week's letter from all those luminaries also contained some good suggestions: improve the existing N3, which seems the most sensible plan given that the road is already in good enough shape; re-open the Navan-Dublin rail line; or simply build the new road in an alternative location. (A local group, Bellinter Residents' Association, has actually drawn up decent plans for such a route, which would be located between the N2 and N3).
The decision on the M3 will reveal a lot about the kind of county that Meath is to become over the next few years. Is it to be little more than a dormitory town for Dublin, a kind of park-and-sleep suburb where people's journeys from the capital are facilitated by long and expensive toll-roads. Or is it to be allowed to continue as a county in its own right, and retain the rights of its history, its archaeology, its identity and its pride? Having lived in the county for almost a quarter of my life, I know which answer I'd give.
Save Tara! http://www.hilloftara.info / http://www.tarawatch.org
Posted by otuathail3
4th March 2004ce
Edited 12th April 2006ce