Public consultation on bypass threat to Bend of the Boyne World Heritage Sites reopened
New round of public consultations ordered for proposed Slane bypass
The Irish Times – Monday, September 20, 2010
FRANK McDONALD Environment Editor
A NEW round of public consultations on controversial plans for a dual-carriageway bypass of Slane, Co Meath, has been ordered by An Bord Pleanála, with October 15th set as the closing date. A public notice advertising the new round of consultations was published recently in national newspapers. The original consultation period closed on February 25th last.
An Bord Pleanála had sought additional information from Meath County Council on the road scheme, including whether an alternative route running to the west of Slane had been examined. The current proposal, which is being advanced on behalf of the National Roads Authority (NRA), would run to the east of Slane, some 500 metres from the boundary of Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site.
The appeals board also sought alternative designs for a new bridge over the river Boyne, noting that the cable-stayed bridge originally proposed would be visible from the World Heritage Site. It also wanted the council to produce more detailed archaeological and geophysical reports on investigations of 44 archaeological sites that would be affected by the original scheme.
The information was sought "in order to clarify certain points in the environmental impact statement [EIS] and assist the board's assessment of the likely effects on the environment" of the road. This followed complaints to An Bord Pleanála by the Save Newgrange group, former attorney general John Rogers SC and leading archaeologist Prof George Eogan that the EIS was flawed.
Save Newgrange spokesman Vincent Salafia said: "We will be waging an international campaign over the next month, particularly in Northern Ireland, to get as many objections as possible filed with An Bord Pleanála."
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Tara endangered, says Smithsonian
Saturday, February 28, 2009
ONE OF the most respected educational and research institutes in the United States has listed the Hill of Tara among the 15 must-see endangered cultural treasures in the world.
The Tara complex in Co Meath, the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland, has been the subject of controversy because of the nearby construction of the M3 motorway.
The March edition of the magazine published by Washington's Smithsonian Institution says "the clang of construction equipment can be heard at the Co Meath site nowadays. The Smithsonian features 14 other "precious historic and artistic sites" around the world which, it says, "can be visited today, but might be gone tomorrow".
"Each testifies to our urge to build and create; each reminds us of how much we stand to lose," says the Smithsonian.
Other sites listed include the reputed birthplace of Jesus Christ, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem; Chan Chan in Peru, the largest city in the Americas about 600 years ago; and the crumbling Route 66 across the US.
Campaigners say the M3 will cut through one of Ireland's most important historical sites, but the National Roads Authority says the new motorway will be farther away from the hill than the existing route. The motorway is scheduled to be finished in the middle of next year.
Last month the Hill of Tara was listed among a number of locations which have been nominated for inclusion on a list of possible Unesco world heritage sites.
Vincent Salafia of TaraWatch, who is quoted in the Smithsonian article, said it "should send a clear message to both the Irish Government, and Unesco, that they cannot proceed with inscribing the Hill of Tara as a world heritage site, unless the M3 is rerouted."
The Smithsonian Institution is the world's largest museum complex and research organisation.
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Endangered Site: The Hill of Tara, Ireland
A new tollway threatens the archaeologically rich complex that is the spiritual heart of the country
* By Amanda Bensen
* Smithsonian magazine, March 2009
"The harp that once through Tara's halls
The soul of music shed
Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls
As if that soul were fled."
The words of 19th-century Irish poet Thomas Moore still ring true, and the only music you're likely to hear around Tara nowadays is the clang of construction equipment. Several hundred acres of gentle green fields, marked by some lumps and bumps, cover this patch of County Meath in northeast Ireland. A nice place to lie down and watch the clouds scud by, perhaps, but is it any more remarkable than the rest of Ireland's lovely landscape?
Cinnte, to use an Irish expression of certitude. The archaeologically rich complex on and around the Hill of Tara is seen by many as the spiritual and historic heart of Ireland. It was the venue for rituals, battles and burials dating back to 4000 B.C. More than 100 kings were crowned at Tara, and St. Patrick is said to have stopped there to seek royal permission before spreading his message of Christianity.
In more recent history, the hill was the site of Daniel "the Liberator" O'Connell's 1843 "monster meeting," a massive political demonstration that rallied some 750,000 people to the cause of repudiating the country's union with Britain. Thousands of people still gather on its crest on midsummer's eve, both for the panoramic view and what one visitor calls "the sense you get there of being close to something holy."
"Tara is a part of the Irish psyche," says George Eogan, a retired Dublin archaeologist who led excavations near the hill in the 1960s. "Irish people, they know of Tara from their very early days. It's in schoolbooks and stories, even in primary school."
But Irish history now risks being consumed by the Celtic Tiger—the nickname given to Ireland's phenomenal economic expansion for more than a decade. Inevitably, a thriving economy brought demands for an expanded infrastructure. And so, in 2003, the Irish government approved construction of a new four-lane tollway, the M3, to cut through the Tara complex. Construction began in 2005, and despite a storm of public protest, the project appears unstoppable.
"When it was proposed in 2000, most people nationally had no idea what was happening. And I think everyone trusted the government not to pick a route that was so damaging," says Vincent Salafia, a lawyer from nearby County Wicklow who founded the anti-M3 group TaraWatch in 2005. "There's fat land all around. We still can't quite figure out why they insisted on going so close to Tara."
Proponents of the M3 argue that the highway will improve life for tens of thousands of commuters who live northwest of Dublin and often spend hours each day creeping along traffic-clogged, two-lane roads into the capital city, about 30 miles away from Tara. Other proposed routes for that section of the M3 would have disturbed a greater number of private homes and farms. Proponents also note that the new road will be almost a mile away from the actual Hill of Tara, a 510-foot-high knoll.
"If it doesn't go through the hill, then it's not damaging the site? That is the greatest bit of nonsense that I've ever heard," counters Eogan. "The Hill of Tara is only the core area of a much larger archaeological and cultural landscape."
Preservationists particularly worry that the M3 will slice between the Hill of Tara and Rath Lugh, an ancient earthen fort about two miles northeast thought to have been used to defend the hill. A smaller road already divides the two sites, but the M3 will run much closer to Rath Lugh, even removing part of the promontory it sits on. "If this development goes ahead, Rath Lugh will merely overlook, from a distance of 100 meters, a motorway—which would be a rather ignominious end for a once proud and important monument," a trio of archaeologists warned in a 2004 publication.
Much of the recent controversy has focused on the 38 new archaeological sites that construction teams have unearthed along the section of motorway closest to Tara since the project began. The discoveries represent centuries of human activity, including prehistoric settlements, Bronze Age burial mounds, a possible medieval charcoal manufacturing kiln and the remains of a 19th-century post office. At the time, the discoveries barely caused a hiccup—the artifacts were removed, and once the sites had been "preserved by record" in notes and photographs, they were destroyed. Ireland's National Roads Authority has pledged that any artifacts will eventually be deposited in the National Museum of Ireland.
While that approach may be legally permissible, that doesn't make it right, says Salafia, who examined one of the exposed trenches at a site just north of Tara. "You could see a child's body where [construction teams] had actually cut off the nose and toes, and also shaved off the top of a cremation urn, leaving the ashes exposed," he says. Eogan calls it "an act of sheer vandalism."
The M3 is scheduled for completion in 2010, though the global recession may delay it. In the meantime, Tara is attracting increased international attention, and is under consideration to become a Unesco World Heritage Site.
"Most of the endangered sites around the world are suffering due to neglect and climate change," Salafia says. "But this is an act of assault—premeditated assault, if you will—by the very people who are given the job of taking care of it."
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You can make a difference in the campaign to save the Hill of Tara from the M3 motorway.
Here are stories from Irish papers, about the March 2009 Smithsonian magazine article on the Hill of Tara and the M3 motorway, recognising Tara as one of the worlds most important and most endangered cultural sites.
We are asking you to please write letters to the editors of Smithsonian magazine and the Irish newspapers.
We also hope you will write to the various authorities, involved in the current decision-making regarding the proposed Tara World Heritage Site, including the Minister for the Environment, John Gormley; Green Party, UNESCO; ICOMOS; and Lord Hankey, President of ICOMOS UK and Chair of Minister's Expert Advisory Panel, reviewing Ireland's List of Tentative Sites.
Join over 2,800 members using this powerful tool for internet activism. Along with the myspace Cause, installing this application will help boost our campaign greatly.
We now have a new peitition, addressed to UNESCO, ICOMOS and WAC, located at http://www.savetarapetition.net/
It is critical that we collect as many signatures as possible before the Sixth World Archaeological Congress (WAC-6), to be held in Dublin, beginning 29 June 2008, and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Quebec, Canada, beginning 2 July 2008. WAC-6 will be holding a round table discussion about the ethics of the M3 and Tara.
The Minister for the Environment, John, Gormley, has proposed making Tara a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but with the M3 passing though the middle of it. We support the nomination to UNESCO, but want them to insist that the M3 is rerouted first.
So, please sign the new petition, forward the link to your friends, and post the link and logo on as many web sites as you can.
Leading archaeologists to debate 'ethics' of Tara road
A PRESTIGIOUS forum of the world's leading archaeologists is to debate the "ethics" surrounding a decision to build a motorway near the Hill of Tara.
In what could prove to be highly embarrassing for the Government, the World Archaeological Congress is to hold a public debate on whether a decision to run a motorway through one of the country's most sensitive archaeological sites was merited.
The M3 motorway is expected to be completed in two years. Since the final route was announced, academics worldwide and a group of campaigners living in the Tara Skryne Valley have criticised the decision.
The World Archaeological Congress will meet in Dublin from June 29 next.
- Irish Independent - Saturday June 07 2008
Archaeology event to discuss Tara
Irish Times - breaking news
Last Updated: 06/06/2008 19:59
The Hill of Tara will be debated by leaders in the world of archaeology at an international conference next month.
A round-table session in Dublin about the ethics of the construction of the controversial M3 motorway will form part of the Sixth World Archaeological Congress (WAC-6).
The non-governmental group - the only archaeological organisation with elected global representation - holds an international convention every four years to promote the exchange of archaeological research, professional training, and the conservation of archaeological sites.
The M3 Motorway/Hill of Tara will be one of two themes debated by the WAC Ethics Forum during the event at University College Dublin from June 29th to July 4th.
Vincent Salafia of TaraWatch, which will submit a position statement for the debate, said campaigners are delighted Tara will be addressed by an impartial international forum of this calibre.
"The Tara/M3 issue has received massive international attention . . . but the debate in Ireland itself has been very muted, especially within professional archaeological circles," he said.
"This debate is going to be explosive, as there are a lot of reputations riding on this issue, and positions have become very entrenched on both sides."
NEW SAVE TARA PETITION TO UNESCO, ICOMOS AND WAC-6 http://www.savetarapetition.net
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