Sunday, May 23, 2010

Summer Solstice Celebrations on the Hill of Tara / 20-21 June


TaraWatch calls on you to join poets, musicians and revellers at the annual Summer Solstice celebrations on the Hill of Tara, beginning on Sunday, 20 June. Festivities begin at noon and run all through the night, until sunrise on Monday, the 21st. If you are an artist, and want to participate, please contact us at You can also register for this event on Facebook, receive updates, and help us promote it.

We will have some special guests, including Hope Ebsworth, a leader of the Wangkumarra people in Queensland, Australia. He has written a book and written a book Bury me at Tartulla Hill, and is travelling to Tara to highlight the plight of his people. Wangkumarra land is at the juncture of Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. Since 2001, Wangkumarra people have received an annual payment of $60,000 in compensation for Santos’ destructive mining and exploration activity on their land andrip half a billion dollars worth of oil and gas out of the land every year.

This years celebration at Tara will be a more sombre affair, as the M3 motorway will have opened on 4 June. However, we will continue to lobby for the protection of Tara, against future developments, and highlight the Government's ongoing mistreatment of Irish heritage, such as the N2 Slane bypass at Bru na Boinne World Heritage Site. An information session on the proposed Tara Skryne Landscape Protection Area, and the nomination of the Hill of Tara to be a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Tara is the most beautiful place in Ireland to experience the solstice, so please come and join us.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Dec 23 deadline on public consultation for proposed Hill of Tara UNESCO site


Dear TaraWatch supporter,

Thank you for your continued support of the campaign to save Tara from the M3. This week, a new Tentative List of Ireland's proposed World Heritage Sites was published by the Department of the Environment, and it includes Tara. The Hill of Tara landscape should be a World Heritage Site, but not with a motorway being built through the middle of it. UNESCO must demand a re-routing of the road, like they are at Stonehenge. Please write letters to the editor at: in response to the article below. Also make your views known to John Gormley, Minister for the Environment, at and



Shortlist for world heritage status is drawn up
Irish Independent - Monday November 02 2009

By Paul Melia

GEORGIAN Dublin and the Tara complex are among a list of potential world heritage sites being prepared by Environment Minister John Gormley. Today, a list of potential nominees to the World Heritage List will be published, which also asks UNESCO to consider protecting the Burren and Ceide Fields and north Mayo boglands. But there's bad news for Killarney National Park and the bogs of Clara, Co Offaly, which have been dropped from the list. Instead, an expert group wants to honour Georgian Dublin and the capital's literary heritage, which has seen Dubliners George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett garner two Nobel Prizes for Literature. World Heritage sites are considered to be of 'outstanding universal value' and are defined as being of "cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity".


Ireland currently has three sites -- The Giant's Causeway in Co Antrim, which was inscribed in 1986, Bru na Boinne in Co Meath (1993), and Skellig Michael in Co Kerry (1996). The new list recommends the Burren, Ceide Fields and north-west Mayo Boglands, Clonmacnoise, Dublin -- A Georgian City and its Literary Tradition, Early Medieval Monastic Sites, the Royal Sites of Ireland and Western Stone Forts. "It is now much more difficult to meet the UNESCO requirements for inscription," Mr Gormley said. "I believe that the draft list contains a list of those Irish properties which are of outstanding universal value and which meet the UNESCO inscription requirements."

Public consultation - stakeholders - Deadline December 23.

There will be consultation with stakeholders and interested parties before any region is formally nominated. Last October, the minister established an Expert Advisory Group to carry out a review of Ireland's 1992 Tentative List of potential sites for nomination. The next stage is that local authorities and communities will be consulted in relation to potential sites in their areas and there will be an opportunity to make observations on the draft new Tentative List. The deadline for submissions on the current list is December 23. The World Heritage List has almost 900 properties, including the Alhambra in Spain, Red Square in Russia and Acropolis in Greece.


TaraWatch UNESCO Consultation Site


Saturday, August 29, 2009

9,000 year old Neolithic fishing trap found in Hill of Tara landscape during excavations along path of M3 motorway


The Irish Times reported on Friday, August 28 2009 that a 9,000 year old fishing trap was found in the Hill of Tara landscape, near Dunsany, during excavations by the National Roads Authority (NRA), along the path of the M3 motorway. The incredible find was reported in a story entitled, 'Artefacts uncovered during roadworks give fresh perspective on early Irish life', which covered the NRA National Archaeology Seminar 2009, which took place in Dublin on Thursday, 27th August, entitled 'Creative Minds: production, manufacturing and invention in ancient Ireland'. The Irish Times article stated:
"Ronan Swan of the NRA told of a fishing trap uncovered at Clowanstown on the route of the M3 near Dunsany. It was made of saplings and was probably 9,000 years old."
Details of the fishing trap can be found in the Final Excavation Report for Clowanstown1, available in the archaeology section of the NRA web site. The trap and a lot of other Neolithic fishing materials, along with axes, jewelry and evidence of industrial and ritual activity and were located within an area containing five mounds or man-made monuments. The site sits beside a wetland which was previously a lake, and you can view the report with images on the NRA web site, the text of which is reprinted below, with some images.


Final archaeological report for Clowanstown 1, County Meath

Probable Mesolithic fishing platform and Early Neolithic burnt Mounds.

This site was located within Contract 2 (Dunshaughlin to Navan) of the proposed M3 Clonee to North of Kells motorway and was identified during advance testing by Jonathan Dempsey in spring 2004 (04E0418). Topographical and environmental work commenced in advance of excavation in September 2006. Full resolution revealed a probable Mesolithic fishing platform and Neolithic burnt mounds located near the centre of a former lough.


Five Mounds were situated at the western edge of a raised bog, including organic sediments up to 3.45m deep, overlying thick shell-rich marl, sealing probable gravels and sands laid down at the base of a small lough. It seems likely that deposition of the basal silts commenced reasonably early in the Holocene.

An early mooring

Six substantial stakes defined a rough arc around the landward side of the central depression, perhaps providing a structure to fish from as well as a mooring for a dugout. A number of large stones may be ballast or anchor stones. The stakes were driven up to 1.85m into the underlying marl, whilst three had subsided heavily, suggesting a heavy weight on them. Two stakes had not been sharpened, demonstrating the saturated state of the underlying strata when they were inserted.


Fishing baskets

Two pairs of conical baskets twined with one to two year old alder withes, were found within the central depression. One basket measured 1.12m long x c.0.4m in diameter at the open end, which was finished with a double row of twining. The closed end appeared to have previously been externally bound and trimmed. Small stones weighted the baskets in position, which were probably baited or provided with funnel entrances. A number of c.20mm diameter fire hardened stakes and woodchips were found in the immediate vicinity. The woodchips were apparently of stone-axe cut timber. Occasional larger stones included a hone stone.

Tiny wooden canoe

To the east: additional stakes; a small wooden plank and an unidentified carved wooden object were recorded. The wooden object appears superficially similar to a dugout canoe but is only 360mm long and may have been a toy, a carpenters model, a votive offering, or a functional container with no intended similarity to dugouts. As the lough dried up a number of drainage gullies developed and sphagnum peat began to form.

The platform

A natural platform beside three flooded depressions was the focus of apparent late Mesolithic activity. A sub-oval layer of burnt timbers consolidated the platform measuring c.7m x 5.9m. A later trough removed a probable central hearth and truncated a posthole/pit. Two thin stakes deeply driven either side of this central area may have supported a rack for smoking fish. A number of: burnt stake ends; flint, chert and siltstone leaf shaped flakes, points and blades; hazelnut shells and occasional stones and animal bones were retrieved. It seems likely that this layer may represent the collapse of a small late Mesolithic structure designed for preparing fish and fishing equipment. This is likely to have involved: repairing, baiting and emptying baskets; hardening and sharpening stakes and spears; preparing, smoking and eating fish. A period of relative abandonment was characterised by the slow build up of humified sphagnum peat and scrub carr as the lough retreated.

The burnt mounds

Activity recommenced with the infilling of the central depression (Mound A) with redeposited marl and limestone. No extraction site has been recognised for the marl though it appears similar to layers 1m below. Both the marl and the stone appear to have been locally imported.

Mound A:

Within Mound A, a conspicuous sequence of at least 9 burnt layers where each was sealed by a layer of redeposited marl and limestone, gradually raised the Mound above its surroundings. Each burnt layer included charcoal, burnt sandstone and limestone fragments and very occasional fragments of carinated bowl.

Seven, sub-rectangular troughs varying from 3.8m to 6.5m in length by 1.8m to 2.6m x c.0.4m average depth, related to the successive phases of burning. Many of the troughs had primary layers of burnt sandstone and limestone and most had been backfilled with peat. A shallow, bowl-shaped pit was positioned downslope of each trough except one. The troughs were positioned progressively further downslope and away from Mound A so that the furthest one was over 20m away. The furthest troughs may relate to Mound C.

Immediately to the southeast of Mound A and beneath Mound C, two spreads of crushed cremated bone, occasional fragments of carinated bowl, burnt flint and occasional lithics had been trampled into the peat. One near complete carinated bowl included burnt internal residue. A number of highly structured deposits involving redeposited marl, crushed cremated bone, burnt flint and fragments of carinated bowl had been deposited beneath Mound C and Mound D, apparently concentrated on the artificially extended natural depressions beneath the centre of each. The primary deposit beneath Mound C was interned in a wooden or bark container measuring c.0.65m diameter x 0.12m deep.

Mound D: [Descriptions for Mound B and C are missing from online NRA report]

This was a low crescent shaped mound of burnt stone waste from Mound A, measuring c.15m x 7m surrounding the landward side of Mound A. Photo: Recording a section through mound D, Clowanstown 1

Mound E:

A fifth mound south of Mound A also centred on a series of structured crushed, cremated bone deposits, which included a small stone mortar.


The centre of Mound A was re-cut for a cylindrical wooden container. This container measured c.0.65m in external diameter c.0.45m internal diameter x 0.72m maximum surviving length and was made of a single trunk. It had an external rebate seemingly to allow a composite wooden base to be bound in place. This had been replaced with quarried limestone slabs (Gabriel Cooney pers comm.) and a redeposited marl layer. Two holes of c.25mm diameter were cut into this rebate c.120mm apart. This container may have originally held a liquid.

Mounds A, C, D and E were all sealed with burnt cairn material forming a monument over each. A more extensive stone spread then sealed the cairn material including a number of lithic and bone finds as well as evidence for at least seven animal skulls (Mound C) and further crushed cremated bone including predominately cattle, sheep/goat, occasional pig, bird and small mammal. The lithic finds included three polished stone axes, a polished stone wedge, three polished stone pendants and at least three polished bone pins as well as leaf-shaped projectile points and scrapers. These final stone sealing layers appeared to have affectively consolidated access between the mounds creating an enduring monument.


Polished bone pin from Clowanstown 1

[Report by Matt Mossop, Archaeological Consultancy Ltd. On behalf of: Archaeological Consultancy Services Ltd, 21 Boyne Business Park, Greenhills, Drogheda. Archaeological Consultancy Ltd. Goodagrane, Halvasso, Penryn, Cornwall. TR10 9BX Phone : 01326 341 061 or Email : ]

Clowanstown 1 final excavation report

Clowanstown 2 final excavation report

Clowanstown 3 final excavation report


Other stories in the Irish Times this week noted the Hill of Tara and the M3 controversy. On Wed, Aug 19, 2009 the Times ran a story entitled, Looking to the music to lead us back', which stated:

""The Carnsore Point campaign of the 1970s and Self Aid in the 1980s are just two instances where artists sought to galvanise public opinion, to stimulate it into taking action about its own future. More recently, a contingent of Irish harpers marched to the Dáil in protest at the building of the motorway at Tara."

Another story in The Irish Times - Wed, Aug 26, 2009, 'How Meath's inland lighthouse became a mock monument,' as part of the Heritage Week Diary by Michael Harding said:

"I couldn’t avoid the ugliness of the industrial estate below me, just outside Kells. I couldn’t resist thinking about the hill of Tara in the distance, and the long, lacerating gash in the earth, where thousands of tonnes of cement have been poured on to the sleeping dead, to make a road for fast cars."

All these references show that the controversy over Tara is still high on the public agenda, and offer more opportunities for letters to be written to the editor of the The Irish Times -


and please sign and repost our petition to the UN:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Please sign the new UN MUST SAVE TARA PETITION


TaraWatch has launched a new petition drive, to appeal to the United Nations to intervene in the Tara situation. Our goal is to reach 1,000,000 signatures, and to submit the petition to the UN Headquarters in New York City. If you are interested in joining this effort, please join TaraWatch USA and email us at



The Hill of Tara, Ireland's premier national monument and internationally renowned cultural icon, is being desecrated by construction of the M3 motorway. The works are in breach of international law, which protects this site for humanity, and the United Nations must intervene now. Lying 30 miles north of Dublin, it was Ireland's capital for millennia; where over 142 kings were crowned, dating back to 3,000 BC. Since then, hundreds of monuments were built on the slopes and in the surrounding landscape. Today, the cultural landscape is defined by the remains of a number of defensive Iron Age hillforts which surround the Hill, lying approximately 2-3 miles away.


The M3 motorway is being built by the Irish Government, in public private partnership with Siac and Ferrovial construction companies, through the centre of this landscape, and a 50 acre interchange is being built 1,000 metres from the summit. Already, dozens of archaeological sites within the landscape have been excavated and demolished, and construction is due to be completed in 2010.


The campaign to save Tara, and re-route the M3 motorway has reached a critical point. Celebrities such as Bono, Seamus Heaney, Jonathan Rhys Myers, Gabriel Byrne, Colm Toibin , Louis le Brocquy and Jim Fitzpatrick, supported by hundreds of international experts in Irish history, archaeology and mythology have spoken out against the M3 route. National surveys show that the vast majority of Irish people want Tara protected, and made into a UNESCO site.

Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney said:

If ever there was a place that deserved to be preserved in the name of the dead generations from pre-historic times up to historic times up to completely recently - it was Tara. I think it literally desecrates an area - I mean the word means to de-sacralise and for centuries the Tara landscape and the Tara sites have been regarded as part of the sacred ground.


The World Monuments Fund, Smithsonian Institution and Sacred Sites International have placed Tara on endangered sites list, and others such as the International Celtic Congress, the Archaeological Institute of America, the Landmarks Foundation, the City of Chicago and the Massachusetts Archaeological Society have issued statements condemning the M3 route.


The European Commission is currently taking a lawsuit against Ireland in the European Court of Justice against Ireland, for illegally demolishing the Lismullin national monument, which was discovered in the pathway of the M3 in 2007, after being voted on of the Top Ten Most Important Discoveries in the world in 2007 by Archaeology magazine. The Irish authorities refused to heed the Commission's demand that demolition be halted, and construction is proceeding despite the EU legal action.


The Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, has delayed nomination of the Hill of Tara to become a UNESCO site, until the M3 motorway is complete. UNESCO has stated that it cannot intervene, until Ireland completes the nomination, which was due to take place at the World Heritage Committee Meeting in Seville, in June 2009.


It is clear that the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage protects all sites of outstanding universal value, even if they are not on the World Heritage List. Other UN agreements, such as the UN Global Compact, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both human rights Covenants, and the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples also require that Tara receive the highest level of protection possible.


The only body that can now intervene and save the Hill of Tara is the United Nations. This petition is directed to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, and asks that you intervene in the Tara crisis, and begin a problem-solving initiative, which will protect Tara and allow the M3 to be completed.

The UN must intervene now and enforce UN law, on behalf of the people of Ireland, the Irish Diaspora, and both the global community.


[Please click here to sign]

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Save Tara campaign update | Letter-writing needed urgently

Aerial photograph of human harp on Tara, 2007

Dear TaraWatch supporters,

Thank you for continuing to support the campaign to save the Hill of Tara from the M3 motorway in Ireland. A lot has happened recently, and we need your help, to keep the voice of opposition to the desecration of Tara alive. As you know, the Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, was supposed to submit Tara to UNESCO at the Seville World Heritage Committee meeting in June. This did not occur, but the Minister issued a statement on the matter yesterday, stating he will do it by the end of the year. The Minister also announced the Tara Skryne Landscape conservation programme. However, it still does not even define the area to be protected. It will have no statutory basis, and it quite clearly going to have a motorway going through the middle of it.

Coincidentally, the European Court of Justice is currently hearing arguments in the case being brought against Ireland by the European Commission, over the demolition of the Lismullin National Monument near Tara in 2007, which was discovered in the pathway of the M3 during excavations.

Letter-writing campaign

Two key newspaper articles were published today, and we are asking you to write letters to the editors, referencing the articles and making objections to Minister Gormley's actions. TaraWatch is seeking a right of reply, and we hope to reinforce that with your letters. Here are the letters and below is a press release we sent out in response to the Ministers statement. Please also send copies of letters directly to the Minister for the Environment at

New rules to protect Tara area

The Irish Times - Saturday, July 18, 2009 - By Olivia Kelly

NEW PROTECTIONS for the Tara-Skryne Valley, which would prevent the construction of retail parks and superstores along the route of the M3, have been announced by Minister for the Environment John Gormley. Mr Gormley said he could not prevent the construction of the motorway near the Hill of Tara, which continues to be the subject of protests by environmental and heritage groups, but he could protect the landscape to prevent inappropriate development.

In conjunction with Meath County Council, Mr Gormley proposed to designate the Tara-Skryne Valley a Special Conservation Area. This would protect the archeological and historic landscape and make it difficult for any construction to take place within the zone. However, Mr Gormley said it would in particular stop the type of large-scale development, such as shopping centres, or retail parks, which have been built along motorways in the past.

“This will ensure that the very negative sort of development associated with motorways will not impinge on the area . . . the sort of motorway development we’ve seen in the past, the BQs, that would not be acceptable.” The plans for the designation, which has been allocated €50,000 funding from the Department of the Environment and the Heritage Council, will have to be submitted for public consultation and agreed by Meath county councillors before the designation is confirmed. It is likely that the protection will be in place by the middle of next year. Mr Gormley said he also intended to increase the protection for national monuments in the new National Monument’s Act, which is currently at draft stage.


Shops and malls to be banned at historic Tara site

Irish Independent - Saturday July 18 2009 - By Paul Melia

MAJOR developments including shopping centres and retail parks will not be allowed to be built off the controversial M3 motorway near the Hill of Tara. The Tara Skryne Valley, one of the most archaeologically rich areas in the country, will be officially designated as a Landscape Conservation Area, which will ban major developments and ensure the landscape is left intact, Environment Minister John Gormley announced yesterday. And he said he was fully committed to nominating the Hill of Tara as a UNESCO World Heritage site when Ireland draws up its shortlist of sites at the end of the year. He added that a new National Monuments Act would mean that road developments would not take place in areas rich with archaeology.

"I am pleased to announce details in relation to a proposed new landscape management project which has been initiated to establish a Landscape Conservation Area in the Tara-Skryne area," he said. "The new landscape conservation zone for Tara Skryne will protect the area from development damage . . . This is the first landscape conservation area ever. We have to learn lessons from the past, there's no question mistakes have been made and mistakes must be rectified."

The National Monuments Act will also see a single Register of Monuments established instead of historic monuments being recorded on a number of lists, and improved recognition of and protection for archaeology under planning legislation. Chairman of the Heritage Council, Conor Newman, added that the legislation would close "serious weaknesses" in the law. "For those of us who spent years trying to protect Tara, the work (M3) exposed serious weaknesses in our legislation," he said. "Protecting the landscape is something we want to see. No one wants to freeze the landscape, just manage change." The landscape conservation area status will be made next year when the exact zone of protection will be identified.


The TaraWatch USA Facebook group already has 2,000 members, after only one week. It is a part of the global Save Tara campaign, being operated by on Facebook by TaraWatch, which has over 13,000 members.

The aim of the group is to hold a demonstration outside the UN building in New York Sity, and to submit a petition to the UN, asking for intervention on the Tara issue.

The proposal is to take an aerial photograph of a couple of thousand people in front of the building, wearing green or spelling a slogan, such as was done at Tara in 2007 with the human harp.

The date of the event is not confirmed, but we are aiming to do it during Heritage Week in Ireland, part of European Heritage Days, 22nd to the 30th of August 2009.