Settlement of the Hill of Tara / M3 case
3 October 2006
Settlement of the Hill of Tara / M3 case
Today I am pleased to announce that a settlement has been formalised before the Supreme Court in my case against the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; The Attorney General; Meath County Council; and the National Roads Authority, regarding the excavation and planned construction of the M3 motorway through the Hill of Tara archaeological complex.
I have accepted an offer from the Defendants to settle these particular proceedings after receiving legal advice from my Senior Counsel, Mr Ger Hogan SC, and Mr Frank Callanan SC, that it was in the best interests the campaign to preserve the integrity of the Tara complex. Thus, I have withdrawn my Supreme Court appeal in return for their agreement not to pursue me personally for costs, estimated in the region of 600,000 euros. The path is now clear for fresh legal challenges to the M3 at Tara by independent third parties, one of which is understood to be under way.
I took judicial review of the May 2005 decision of the Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, within the 8 week time limit, and was granted leave by Justice Peart in July 2005. But the hearing was postponed by the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan, in anticipation of the then pending Supreme Court ruling in the Carrickmines Castle / M50 case. Finally, the hearing went ahead regardless in January 2006, after the Carrickmines ruling was postponed for a third time.
From the very first day of trial my case sank into a procedural quagmire, when Mr Justice Tom Smyth refused to accept affidavits and threw them back over the bench at us. The case then unravelled when he refused our motion for oral cross-examination of witnesses, and critical evidence, was excluded. The excluded evidence went to the heart of the case, and we were unable to legally prove that new national monuments had been discovered.
Expert evidence from Discovery Programme Experts, Conor Newman, Joe Fenwick and Edel Bhreatnach, alleged that many of the newly discovered 38 sites between Navan and Dunshaughin are national monuments because they lie within the Tara complex. In addition, they alleged that 2 particular monuments, at Baronstown and Collierstown in the Tara/Skryne valley, are national monuments in their own right. However, at the commencement of proceedings they decided not to support an application for an injunction, but rather let the matter go directly to full hearing on the merits, in order not to hold up the M3 unnecessarily.
With these national monuments now under imminent threat of demolition, and excavations due to end in early 2007, time is of the essence. The best result we could have hoped for in the Supreme Court in my case was a rehearing in the High Court, followed by another Supreme Court appeal. However, any new Plaintiff would be able to make an application for an injunction immediately.
The substance of my case will now be brought directly to the Environment Directorate of the European Union and I am petitioning the EU to take legal action directly against Ireland for breaches of EU law. The evidence will show how the NRA has systematically underplayed the extent and significance of the Tara archaeological complex, in light of the fact that the Environmental Impact Assessment only identified 5 out of 38 sites.
The campaign will cotinue in earnest and I will remain Legal Affairs spokesperson for TaraWatch and continue to seek a political solution, as well as a legal solution, in light of the upcoming General Election and the fact that 70% of voters surveyed last year wanted the M3 rerouted.
TaraWatch has recently been contacted by the World Monuments Fund, a New York-based non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting endangered ancient and historic sites around the world. They want us to make a submission with a view to putting the Tara complex on the list of World's 100 Most Endangered Sites list. We are also in direct contact with Europa Nostra, the administrators of European Heritage Week, who are considering launching an investigation into the Tara affair.
TaraWatch will also participate in a series of public demonstrations, the first of which will be held in Navan on Saturday, 4th November, starting at 3pm. We are also producing an album with bands like The Waterboys, Paddy Casey and Kila having offered songs.
On a personal level, I took this case because I truly believe the current M3 plan to be illegal, immoral and unethical and I still hold that view. The route of the M3 is 'the fruit of the poisonous tree', to use a legal expression. The roots of that tree are deeply embedded in Leinster House, where later today the Irish people will be officially informed, in essence, that black is in fact white.
The branches of this 'tree' extend well into County Meath, where recent by-election campaign saw the withdrawal of the Fianna Fail candidate after it was disclosed that he co-owned land with Frank Dunlop outside Dunshaughlin, not far from the M3. This was the same candidate that informed RTE's Prime Time that nothing had been discovered by the NRA at Tara except "pots and pans". An article in Ireland on Sunday called 'Tara Tycoons', (10-09-05) shows how major Fianna Fail contributors stand to make millions from developing lands in and around the 50 acre junction planned for Blundelstown, 1,000 metres from the crest of the Hill of Tara.
Recently, the NRA and indeed the Taoiseach have followed this lead and falsely and maliciously alleged that my case has cost the taxpayer 70 to 150 million euros in delays, as well as the lives of accident victims who had to drive on the old road. The obvious truth is that my case has caused no delay in the M3, as excavations are not even due to end until early 2007. There has been no delay in construction and no injunction in place, by my own design.
Finally, I did ask that this matter be handed over to binding arbitration, which would entail an independent third party assessment by a mutually acceptable qualified archaeological consultancy company.
All legal consequences would flow from the determination of the core issues of law and fact: (a) Does the M3 pass through the national monument of Tara? and (b) Have new national monuments been discovered?
This would be quickest and most effective means of bringing finality to the issue and certainty to the M3 project. The authorities rejected this proposal, which means that fresh legal proceedings are likely, along with a dramatic escalation of protests.
There are many other problems with the M3, besides the purely heritage issues. The current route is a waste of taxpayers money because it actually veers 3.5 km off path between Navan and Dunshaughlin to go through the Tara complex, and crosses the N3 in two places within 8 miles, where there is no population density. If it were to go 3.5 km westwards instead it would not need any N3 crossovers and would service Trim, as well as saving approximately 50 million euros.
While TaraWatch is mainly concerned with saving Tara and is not an anti-motorway lobby, we do note that the Al Gore film, 'An Inconvenient Truth' shows that global warming is happening much faster than we imagined and that drastic measures are necessary to reverse the trend.
The M3 represents 1970's technology in terms of fuel efficiency. Even the NRA itself is touting 2+1 schemes as much better options in terms of safety and efficiency per taxpayer euro. Meanwhile, there is no sign of the Navan to Dublin railway being opened, giving commuters an opportunity to get out of their cars and avoid the inevitable traffic jam at Blanchardstown, which will happen even if the M3 is built as planned.
Sooner or later this Government, or the next, must accept the inconvenient truth that the approval of the M3 route is one of the worst ever planning decisions in Ireland, and that it must be revisited in light of current knowledge and common sense.
Posted by BrigantesNation
3rd October 2006ce