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Hill of Tara


Heaney hits out at 'desecration' of sacred Tara

Seamus Heaney claimed this weekend that the ancient Hill of Tara was safer under British rule than the present Irish government, describing the construction of a motorway near the site as a betrayal of 'Ireland's dead generations'.

The Nobel laureate's attack on the construction of the €800m road linking Dublin with Counties Meath and Cavan is compounded by sharp criticism from the World Monuments Fund. The New York-based organisation has compared the building of the motorway through the Tara Skreen valley to the Taliban's deliberate destruction of the giant Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan in 2001.

The assaults on the Tara motorway project are broadcast in a documentary this weekend on BBC Radio Ulster.

The Irish government has insisted the road is a vital piece of infrastructure to ease severe traffic congestion suffered by commuters in the satellite towns on the north and west of Dublin. Conservationists and historians from all over the world furiously oppose the project, which they say will desecrate the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland - and a place of Celtic mythological legend.

Speaking on Tar and Tara, to be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster at 2.30pm today, Heaney said the Irish government had ignored the sacred and spiritual significance of Tara.

'The proclamation of the Irish Republic in 1916 summoned people in the name of the dead generations. If ever there was a place that deserved to be preserved in the name of the dead generations from prehistoric times up to historic times, up to completely recently - it was Tara.'

On the attitude of the Irish government, Heaney said: 'Tara had been protection under British rule. I was reading around recently and I discovered that WB Yeats and George Moore and Arthur Griffith wrote a letter to the Irish Times, some time at the beginning of the last century, because a society called the British Israelites had thought the Arc of the Covenant was buried in Tara, and they had started to dig on Tara Hill. And they [Yeats et al] had written this letter and they talked about the desecration of a consecrated landscape. So I thought to myself if a few holes in the ground made by amateur archaeologists was a desecration, what's happening to that whole countryside being ripped up is certainly a much more ruthless piece of work.'

The Nobel literature prize winner said Tara was 'a source and a guarantee of something old in the country and something that gives the country its distinctive spirit'.

Dr Jonathan Foyle, the World Monuments Fund's UK chief executive, said: 'This actually reminds me of the Bamiyan Buddhas that were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. It was a government that decided that these monuments would be erased, and cultural erasure is part of the game of war and buildings very often suffer from that.

'This entire site [at Tara] is the equivalent of Stonehenge and Westminster Abbey all rolled into one. And that is to be made way for, well, maybe not a radical Islamist view of God, but it is a radical view of Western consumerism as a be-all and end-all that must be serviced by the state. I really think that to destroy culture to shave 20 minutes off a journey time and turn County Meath into a vast car park is a really quite radical thing to do.'

The European Commission has begun legal proceedings against the Irish government over its decision last year to build through an archaeological find classed as a 'national monument' at Lismullen, close to Tara on the M3.

Noel Dempsey, the Irish Minister for Transport, refused to participate in the programme.
moss Posted by moss
2nd March 2008ce
Edited 3rd March 2008ce

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