A Student of History

July 5, 2006

History Paved Over, Again–Ireland (continued)

Filed under: Ireland — John Maass @ 4:37 am


In follow up to a continued look at how Ireland is neglecting its past, here is more about the Hill of Tara and the road to go in nearby that will detract from the site’s heritage:

Hearing Date for Hill of Tara M3 case postponed

The setting of a hearing date in the Hill of Tara / M3 motorway case was postponed by the Irish Chief Justice, the Hon. Mr. Justice John Murray. He said he will set a hearing date after written submissions were received by The Attorney General, The Minister for the Environment, Meath County Council, and the National Roads Authority, due on 24th July.  Gerard Hogan, SC, Counsel for the Appellant, Mr. Vincent Salafia, asked for an early hearing date to be set, since he had given undertakings in the High Court that he would do so. Chief Justice Murray questioned whether there was any urgency in the case, since there is no injunction in place and no stoppage of works. Counsel for Meath County Council argued that there as a ‘considerable shadow’ hanging over the project in relation to the public private partnership contract, which cannot be signed until the matter is through the courts.

Source: TaraWatch Press Release (29 June 2006) via The Stone Pages.

For my related post, go here please.

1 Comment »

  1. Irish Times, Saturday, 17 March 2007
    Ancient sites dismantled along M3 route
    Liam Reid, Environment Correspondent
    A series of ancient underground buildings from the early Christian era have been dismantled in recent days to make way for the controversial M3 motorway.
    The buildings, on one of the largest historical sites discovered along the proposed route, were logged and then removed by a team of archaeologists in advance of work on the road.
    Dating back 1,300 years, they are the first stone archaeological features to be taken down as part of the motorway project. The move has led to a series of protests. Yesterday historians and archaeologists attached to the Save Tara campaign said the buildings, just north of Dunshaughlin, could be part of a royal site and therefore directly linked to the Hill of Tara.
    However, archaeologists working for the National Roads Authority (NRA) said buildings of this type were relatively common in Ireland and that it had been meticulously logged before the dismantling began.
    Described as a souterrain, the structure consisted of three beehive chambers linked by passages.They would have been used for storage and as refuges in case of attack.
    The buildings, which were discovered in 2005, date back to the seventh century and were in use up to the 13th Century.
    Located at Roestown, just north of Dunshaughlin, the souterrain was part of a much larger ancient complex.
    The discovery of glass beads and carvings on bone indicate that some manufacturing activity could have been ongoing on the site at some stage.
    Mary Deevy, project archaeologist with the NRA, said the removal of the stone buildings were part of a series of similar excavation work along the route.
    “It’s completely standard archaeological practice,” she said, adding that three dimensional laser images of the chambers had been taken before they were removed.
    She said souterrains were relatively common in Ireland and that 3,500 are officially listed, the majority of them in Co Louth.
    She said Roestown was not listed as a national monument, and that the excavation and removal had been carried out in accordance with the directions handed down in 2005 by the Minister for the Environment Dick Roche.
    However, Celtic scholar Dr Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin, of the Save Tara campaign said the discovery of artefacts, including gaming board, indicated a “very high class site, probably inhabited by a king”. Under Celtic laws the use of such gaming boards was confined to royalty.
    She said Roestown was one of four major ancient sites discovered along the route and backs up claims by various experts that the area of royal Tara was much larger than the hill itself and extended along the Tara Skryne Valley, through the proposed route of the motorway.
    “What the archaeologists working for the NRA have uncovered are the living places and the burial places of the people associated with Tara,” she said.
    It comes as campaigners prepare to use St Patrick’s weekend to highlight the issue of Tara and the impact of the planned road on the archaeology of the area. Although the saint is not recorded as having visited Tara, he is directly associated with the area through various legends, such as the lighting of a Pascal fire on the hill of Slane nearby.
    Vincent Salafia of the TaraWatch group said Roestown should have been listed as a national monument, and accused the NRA of having “rushed in and demolished the site” before it had a chance of receiving protected status. “This is the St Patrick’s Day gift that the Irish Government has given to Irish people around the world,” he said. “While the Government Ministers are swanning around the globe preaching the gospel of climate change, at home they are advancing one of the most environmentally and culturally damaging projects ever conceived.”
    PRESS RELEASE for immediate release
    ST. PATRICK AND TARA – No Place for Heritage and Tradition in the New

    Legend records that St. Patrick lit his Pascal Fire on the Hill of Slane, just as the pagan fire was to be lit on Tara. The druids at Tara warn the king, Loegaire son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, that unless they put out the fire it will outlive their pagan fire forever. Loegaire is feasting in the banqueting hall when Patrick enters and confronts the ‘great, fierce, pagan emperor of the barbarians reigning in Tara, which was the capital of the Irish’. In one version of the story Loegaire refuses baptism and insists on being buried in pagan fashion – that is upright and fully armed in the ramparts of Tara facing his hereditary enemy, the king of Leinster. This is the landscape targeted by the proposed M3 motorway.
    Irish Ministers will travel the world this weekend, presenting shamrocks to Mr Bush and marketing the bright, shiny new Emerald Isle in cities far and wide; from New York to Toronto, Savannah to Rome, London to Japan. A new found concern for the environment, and the traditional focus on a green and unspoilt landscape, is central to the marketing effort.
    Meanwhile back at home … the contracts for the M3 motorway have been signed. The present route for this motorway is destined to destroy Tara’s landscape; the Gabhra Valley, between the Hills of Tara and Skryne. The proposed road itself is a four lane, tolled motorway that cuts a swathe through the richest archaeological landscape in Europe. A huge interchange is planned within 1500m of the top of the Hill, and cultural and environmental activists predict the motorway will inevitably be followed by all kinds of commercial and ancillary development. The Green and Emerald Isle is quickly becoming the Concrete Isle.
    During the preparatory archaeological excavations 38 sites have been uncovered in the Valley. The archaeological richness of the Valley has proved to be such that the sites have been expanded and now back onto one another, forming one large archaeological dig-site in this section of the proposed route. At least 13 contained burials and dozens of ancient corpses are being dug from their resting places and placed in warehouses for future examination. Such is the fate of the ancestors in the new Ireland.
    Future tourists are sure to be confused by what they encounter in Co. Meath and indeed throughout the country, particularly the most scenic areas. Rampant development, much of it facilitated by corrupt officials has been a by-product of Ireland’s breakneck economic expansion over the last decade.
    Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin, Campaign to Save Tara, said today: “The Irish diaspora abroad have an opportunity over the next week to impress upon the Irish Government that this decision affects all of us; that Tara belongs to Irish people all over the world, it is part of our cultural and national identity.”
    She added: “We call on everyone who cares about the heritage of Ireland to take this chance to express their personal abhorrence in whatever way they can on St. Patrick’s Day. And if you happen to meet one of our smiling politicians at your St Patrick’s Day celebrations tell them exactly what you think of their plans to destroy Tara. Our campaign is calling on the Government to abandon this cultural vandalism, and instead seek UNESCO World Heritage Status for the Tara Complex. It is only by doing this that Tara can be preserved for this and future generations.”
    M. Ni Bhrolcháin, The Campaign to Save Tara
    Links to photographs: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/81489&comment_limit=0&condense_comments=false#comment186612
    and the sites and the finds: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/81168
    LA Times version of Colum McCann’s Village article.
    Wild Irish roads
    Four-lane motorways on the emerald island are paving over a rich
    By Colum McCann, March 17, 2007

    IN HIS EXTRAORDINARY examination of landscape, history, texture and
    storytelling, “Connemara: Listening to the Wind,” the author Tim
    Robinson says that “right living in a place entails a neighborly
    acquaintance with those who lived there in previous times.” What
    Robinson suggests is that whoever we are now is derived from those who
    went before us — their stories, their architecture, their failings,
    their journeys, the roads they took. Things connect, and in those
    connections lies a certain mystery.
    There is a massive ongoing debate in Ireland about a motorway destined
    to destroy one of the richest archeological landscapes in Europe. The
    expanded route for the M3 motorway goes through the heart of the Gabhra
    Valley, between the hills of Tara and Skryne. Legend records that St.
    Patrick set ablaze his Pascal fire on the Hill of Slane, just as the
    pagan fire was to be lighted on Tara. Successive Irish kings were
    crowned there. History lies deep. In a week when Irish politicians come
    to America bearing bowls of shamrock, it’s interesting to ponder that
    they’re going back to dreams of concrete.
    The proposed road is a four-lane tollway, the sort that Ireland has
    grown fond of in recent times. Cultural and environmental activists
    predict that the motorway will inevitably be followed by all kinds of
    commercial and ancillary development. Much of the Emerald Isle is
    key-chained with crossovers, flyovers and high steel bridges these
    “Future tourists are sure to be confused by what they encounter in
    County Meath and indeed throughout the country,” says Muireann Ni
    Bhrolchain of the Campaign to Save Tara, a newly formed umbrella group
    for the dozens of opposition groups. “Rampant development throughout
    the country, much of it facilitated by corrupt officials, has been a
    byproduct of Ireland’s breakneck economic expansion over the last
    Roads touch our lives in more intimate ways too. Recently I was reading
    a book about the Irish high kings to my 8-year-old son, John Michael.
    He loved the Stone of Destiny, the ancient coronation stone, and was
    fascinated by the notion that the stone would roar when touched by the
    true king.
    “Did it shout?” he asked. I said I had no idea, but I imagined so.
    “Good,” he said, and then asked: “Have you ever been there?” Many
    times, I told him, even once when I was his age. His eyes lighted up,
    as young eyes do at the wonder that their fathers had ever been the
    same age as them.
    “Did you ever hear it roaring?” he asked. I said I hadn’t, but I bet it
    would for him.
    Just a few hours later I received a series of photographs showing that
    work on the M3 had already begun. Trees were being ripped up in and
    around the Gabhra Valley, which happens also to be the site of the
    proposed interchange at Blundelstone, near the heart of the matter. It
    seemed that the Irish National Roads Authority and the Meath County
    Council were trying to get a jump on construction so that the proposed
    rerouting of the motorway could not take place.
    So be it, perhaps. Roads find their places. Ireland is changing.
    Perhaps we should just let it change.
    But then the question is, what sort of Ireland might remain?
    The area of highest contention is about two miles of the Tara-Skryne
    valley. Few people dispute the wider issue of the need for a better
    road. Defenders point out that the motorway is about three-quarters of
    a mile from the Hill of Tara. It will take 30 minutes off the journey
    between Dublin and Cavan. Some even claim, amazingly, that it will
    restore tranquillity to the area. There is even an argument that the
    road and its floodlights will become part of the archeology of the
    future. Hallelujah, the future says. A four-lane highway. Another Stone
    of Destiny.
    But we bury the past only if we’re ashamed of it. We have a
    responsibility to heritage, environment and, indeed, imagination. Yet
    most meaningful Irish debates these days seem to take place only in the
    realm of time and money. Half-hours are crucial to the economics of the
    future. Those who oppose these notions are labeled contrary, dreamy,
    populist. Even when viable alternate routes are proposed, the
    proponents are labeled simplistic. But nothing is simple, not even
    As an Irish novelist living in New York, I’ve been told that I should
    keep my “bourgeois,” “emigrant” and “sentimental” nose out of the
    debate. It is not my story. It is not my road.
    But the road here has gone back an awful long way. If we are not to be
    ashamed in the future, we must take whatever care we can of our past.
    In a strange, naive way, I think my son, here in New York, might
    understand this too.
    These are our roaring stones — and sometimes they take root in the most
    unlikely places.

    Comment by muireann ni bhrolchain — March 22, 2007 @ 9:41 am | Reply

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