was the proposed M3 routed so close to the historic site of Tara when
the government knew it would cause massive delays, controversy,
additional costs and lengthy legal actions? The National Roads
Authority and every cat and dog in the country remembers the
controversy and delays that the routing of roads through the Glen of
the Downs and Carrickmines caused and yet a decision was actually made
to put us all in the same position again with Tara. Although the
general public did not always support the actions of those opposed to
construction at the former sites, did the government seriously believe
that running a double-tolled, six-lane motorway so near to the seat of
the High Kings, the most internationally renowned archeological site in
the country, would not cause even the most cynical of people to ask
“what is going on?”
If the NRA adopted normal road building practices first widely employed by the Roman
Empire over 2,000 years ago in realising that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line I might understand their position a little more. However, the proposed route for the M3 goes on a semicircular route from Dunshaughlin around the base of the hill of Tara and back to follow a reasonably straight path again. The question must be asked why was this done?
There are no large mountain ranges or Amazon sized rivers in the area that need to be avoided that I am familiar with. Why when the M3 could be built 5 kms to the west of Tara, over 3 kms shorter (at an average cost of €10 million per kilometre) and avoiding two massive flyer over intersections where the N3 crosses the proposed M3 was this controversial route chosen? The biggest of these fly overs at Blundelstown will cost €20 million alone. The area it services is a greenfield rural site, situated at the foot of the hill of Tara and will serve the interest of no one except construction companies and developers. Why pay an extra €60 million for a motorway and route it away from the badly serviced town of Trim?
Even if the M3 is rerouted to service Trim, which would save the taxpayers millions and safeguard the most significant historical site in the country, it will still result in no time saving benefit to the commuters of Meath. Traffic travelling from Navan and Kells to Dublin will continue to back up at the existing bottleneck at the Blanchardstown roundabout. This traffic problem will continue to get worse as large areas around Clonee and Dunboyne have been rezoned for housing development and will soon also feed into the proposed M3 further adding to the current Blanchardstown snail paced traffic jam.To add to this, the outer orbital motorway, which the Tanaiste, Michael McDowell, is now proposing, will make the M3 redundant as there will be little interest from commuters in using a double-tolled motorway when there are other cheaper, faster options available.
Michael Starlett, chief executive of the Heritage Council Ireland recently highlighted the poor level of strategic planning employed by our government. According to Mr. Starlett; “Through a progressive approach to landscape management, other European countries have avoided many of the serious issues we now face as a result of bad planning decisions.”
Organisations like Save Tara Valley, which organised a march in Navan to highlight these issues on the 4th of November, Save Tara and Tarawatch have been trying to draw attention to these issues for a long time.
Vincent Salafia of Tarawatch recently delivered a lecture entitled ‘The Inconvenient Truth About the M3 Motorway.” At this, Mr. Salafia expanded outlined new legal reasons to challenge what he referred to as ‘the scariest planning decision you will ever see in Ireland’. Although prevented from taking further legal action under his terms of agreement with the court, he presented three potential areas for future litigation concerning the M3 project. Briefly, these were the fact that the discovery of new monuments should under the National Monuments Act of 2004 prevent any further work on the motorway from taking place until these have been properly investigated.
Secondly, the option exists to present all information gathered during the course of the previous trial to the EU Environment Directorate so that the Directorate can determine whether the Irish government has breached the EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. Finally an issue exists under the Planning & Development Act of 2000 concerning tolling hearing/public consultation that warrants further investigation.
According to Mr. Salafia, “The National Roads Authority plan to hold the public consultation for the tolling of the M3 after they sign the Public Private Partnership contract with the tolling consortium. He added “It’s a farce. The public are being deprived of any meaningful consultation, required by law, since the essential elements of the contract will already be agreed.”
Martin Hogan is the Green Party endorsed candidate for the National University of Ireland Senate election in 2007. All graduates of the National University of Ireland are entitled to vote this election. To sign up to vote simply visit www.nuiregister.com or contact Martin directly at firstname.lastname@example.org