Well, it’s the only way I can describe it. I know that much Irish historical record has been wiped out in the past, and this road plan sounds to me like a continuation of such destruction, but this time, not by invading armies but Ireland’s own government.
I’m sure the British government, already working on changing planning regulation, must be rubbing their hands with glee at the very thought of the power their Irish counterparts have voted themselves in their determination to see the M3 road built.
The total scheme length comprises some 60 km of new road build and the project will cover approximately 700 hectares of land comprising 60km of mainline and 50km of ancillary and access roads the main part of this.
In a determined effort to stop the monstrous road, activists have liberated Pat Mills’ Slaine form rhe pages of 2000AD to promote their fight against the development. (Pat’s delighted by this by the way — “It’s good to see Slaine being made practical use of!” he tells me. “I’ve just written the intro for the final volume of this Slaine saga where I mention British road warriors (the modern day druid King Arthur ). I shall amend it to include Irish road warriors!”)
Here’s a full report of the campaign against the M3, based on a report in the activist newsletter SchNews…
“The proposed M3 motorway has been described by archaeologists as the worst case of state-sponsored vandalism ever inflicted on Irish cultural heritage.”
The biggest anti-road direct action protest ever in Ireland may be about to happen at the Hill of Tara, north west of Dublin, if attempts to have the area protected on archaeological grounds, and other legal efforts fail.
The entire area is a large archaeological complex containing at least 160 sites covering a timespan from 3600BC through to bronze and medieval ages. It was once the seat of the High Kings of Ireland and the country’s political and spiritual capital until the 12th century. Yet it is imminently threatened, after a nine year battle to stop the development, by a motorway which would pass within one kilometre of its centre, and through the Tara Skryne Valley, scattered with hundreds of monuments whose relationship with the central complex is only just
beginning to be understood.
Like Stonehenge, the main edifice is surrounded by a large acreage of associated mounds, burial chambers and ancient building works.
The Irish government have given the green light to the M3 motorway and are so determined to avoid the past problems of nuisance neolithic artefacts or human remains being dug up during earth works and threatening the developments, that new heritage laws have been enacted. Now under the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 2004, government ministers have sole discretion in deciding whether archaeological sites in Ireland are to be preserved or demolished – affecting Tara, and all future development sites.
Work started late last year, and since January a construction compound was set up and earth moving equipment brought in. On 4 January, protesters occupied digging equipment near Dunshaughlin to hold up work, as earth moving had begun – being passed off as ‘excavations’.
Last month a 1,300 year old underground building near Roestown was destroyed, just one of the major archaeological sites on the proposed route, containing beads, carved bones and an ancient gaming board.
The destruction was rushed through by Ireland’s National Roads Authority (NRA, link is to the department’s dedicated M3 web site) to avoid an injunction being placed under the National Monuments Act which would have stopped work. The NRA claim that this sort of site was ‘relatively common’ in Ireland. Campaigners were refused permission to have an independent archaeologist inspect the site.
(The NRA claims it is working with archaeologists to actively seek out previously unknown archaeological sites so that ample time and resources can be allocated to their excavation and recording prior to the start of road construction – JF).
Mysteriously, a section of land at Lismullen (pictured above, photo courtesy the campaigners) is surrounded by fencing and 24 hour security – it is believed that something important may have been dug up which they don’t want the public to find out about.
At the moment, with the affected land still largely intact, campaigners are trying to raise funds to pay for an independent archaeological team to go over the 38 known important sites along the route. Campaigners say that Irish archaeologists won’t do it because they are all too deeply in the pockets of the NRA, and have an eye towards the future work they will get signing off other historic sites to oblivion. It is also claimed that government-lackey archaeologists are not digging at sufficient depth considering the layers of burial going back through the ages, and it is estimated that a proper excavation of the area concerned would take a decade.
In June this year World Monuments Watch, an international body with enough clout to save many of the threatened sites at which they have intervened, will give a decision about whether to put Tara in their top 100 ‘most endangered sites’ list, which would put further weight behind efforts to protect it. Tara is also being made a big issue in the forthcoming Irish general election this year, but campaigners told SchNEWS that this is amounting to the main political parties trying to gain pre-election kudos by appearing to oppose it.
Whether any of them could be trusted once in power is another matter.
Since the Summer Solstice in 2006, there has been a permanent vigil, fire and camp at Tara, with regular events including the upcoming Beltane on 1 May, and a large gathering open to all celebrating the first anniversary on 21 June. The vigil is on the north side of the Hill of Tara, past Rath Grainne: just follow the ditch/road north from the parking area. Rope, tarpaulin and all usual camp tat is needed.
For more see www.savetara.com.
In late December large trees were felled and earth moved on the northern slope of Skryne at Rath Lugh, and what began as daily demos has turned into an ongoing protest site there. When the direct action campaign kicks off, Skryne Valley will be the frontline – an area not only of archaeological importance but also featuring ancient woodland between Rath Lugh and Blundelstown.
Mass destruction through the valley could be imminent…
• For updates about the protest see tarawatch.org and www.savetara.com
• To donate to the appeal for funding archaeological work see tarawatch.org/?p=342
• To read about the history of the Hill of Tara see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hill_of_Tara