Decision due on motorway
part of the article in the Guardian by
Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland correspondent
Thursday November 11, 2004
The motorway plans have been passed by Ireland's planning board, despite the campaign by archaeologists and local groups, and are now sitting on the desk of the new environment minister, Dick Roche, who has the power to say yes or no. A decision is imminent.
Dozens of academics from Ireland and abroad have written of their concerns in the Dublin-based Sunday Tribune. Dennis Harding of the archaeology department at Edinburgh University called the plans "an act of cultural vandalism as flagrant as ripping a knife through a Rembrandt painting".
Archaeologists who have researched Tara say the nine-mile stretch of the new M3 motorway will mean the excavation of at least 28 sites and monuments in the road's corridor. But these, they say, will be "ultimately destroyed". They expect many more sites to be affected, with 48 archaeological zones within 500 metres of the road corridor and around one site every 300 metres along the road itself.
Conor Newman of the archaeology department at the National University of Ireland, Galway, is the director of a state-funded archeological research programme at the Hill of Tara. "They are knowingly putting this four-lane motorway through the middle of what is actually a relatively compact but uniquely important archaeological landscape," he said. "I don't mean landscape in an aesthetic sense, I mean landscape in an archaeological and historical sense. They are doing it willingly when they could have come up with alternative ideas." He said archaeologists had not been listened to.
What puzzles many international archaeologists is why Ireland has chosen this motorway route at a time when British authorities are spending hundreds of millions of pounds trying to undo past mistakes at Stonehenge. There they are grassing over one road and burying another in a tunnel to remove traffic from the surroundings of the ancient monument.
Edel Bhreathnach, a medieval historian at University College Dublin, and editor of a forthcoming book on kingship and the landscape of Tara, said if the government approved the motorway it would be "the decision of a people who no longer understand their past".
The road authorities have already dug test trenches along the corridor of the motorway, identifying 28 sites which they could excavate before building.
Posted by Rhiannon
11th November 2004ce
Edited 11th November 2004ce