This motorway is a disgrace to our heritageA unique part of Ireland's rich archaeological landscape will be irreparably damaged, says Julitta Clancy
Thursday June 8, 2006
Owen Bowcott outlined some of the heritage and transport issues at the centre of the controversy over the proposed routing of a four-lane motorway through the Tara landscape in Co Meath (Land of High Kings is battlefield for fight between heritage and growth, May 30).
Now, almost three years after receiving full approval, and with every advantage going their way during the local planning process - including the absence of a fair and effective appeal remedy - the article reports that the motorway developers are complaining of delays, for which they conveniently point the finger at heritage objectors.The heritage issues are stark: one of the "richest archaeological landscapes in Europe", associated with Ireland's premier national monument, will be irreparably damaged by the routing of one six-mile section of motorway through its central valley, and the siting of a 26-acre lighted interchange just three quarters of a mile from the Hill of Tara itself. In addition, numerous archaeological sites associated with Tara will be destroyed, and there is a danger that large-scale development will follow.
And, as for transport: after years of unprecedented population growth, central Meath badly needed a well-planned, sustainable and integrated solution offering greater choice to the commuter. But what we have been offered - a double-tolled motorway and the vague possibility of a reopened rail line by 2015 - falls far short of all this.
The delays are due to a combination of factors that rest at the developer's own door, including the nature, length and complexity of the scheme and its contract; the extent and importance of the archaeology discovered in the route chosen, the obligation to excavate all the sites discovered; and delays in approving those excavations. Despite an appeal from the director of the National Museum of Ireland, the environment minister approved the excavations in the Tara section in May 2005, nine months after receipt of the application.
Excavations commenced in July 2005, and to date no excavation work has been delayed or stopped by objectors. How then do the developers, the National Roads Authority, justify their assertion in your article that "construction was due to start at the beginning of May?" How could construction start when archaeological excavations are continuing?
If there are fears that litigation might further delay the construction of the road, the authorities must look to the poor provision made for risk assessment in the original contract.
So why have we in Meath been denied the well-planned transport solution we so badly need? Why is the county council, which recently designated Meath as the "heritage capital of Ireland", pushing through with the destruction of such a unique part of the nation's heritage? And what real rights are available to citizens with genuine concerns for the environment where state infrastructure projects are involved? No satisfactory answers have yet been offered.
· Julitta Clancy is assistant secretary of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society www.community.meath.ie/mahs
Meath Archaeology and Historical Society
Julitta Clancy is also founder member and spokesperson of the Meath Peace Group -