Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Meath Chronicle: Tara campaigner appealing to Supreme Court today

Meath Chronicle
Sat, Apr 22 06

John Donohoe

Vincent Salafia, who lost the recent High Court case against the M3 motorway, is today (Wednesday) giving Notice of Appeal of the decision to the Supreme Court.

Notice will be officially given by Mr Salafia to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Meath County Council; the Attorney General and the National Roads Authority, who were all parties to the case.

The challenge by Mr Salafia to the proposed route of the M3 motorway near the Hill of Tara was dismissed on all grounds by the High Court in March. Mr Justice Thomas Smyth ruled Mr Salafia was not entitled to
succeed in any of his claims because of an unjustified two-year delay in bringing them. He considered all the arguments made by Mr Salafia, including claims that certain provisions of the National Monuments
(Amendment) Act 2004 were unconstitutional, and rejected all of those.

The judge ruled the legislature is entitled to regulate land and road developments in the interests of the common good, even where that involves interference with property rights and national monuments.

The Act had introduced changes in relation to how national monument protections were controlled, the legislature was entitled to choose to give qualified protection to national monuments and the court could not strike down section 14 of the Act, as sought by Mr Salafia, simply because a different or better balance could have been struck, he said.

Mr Salafia had asked the court to make a declaration that the greater Tara landscape - the Hill of Tara/Skryne Valley - is a national monument or a complex or series of national monuments within the meaning of the National Monuments Act, but the judge declined to do so. Mr Justice Smyth said there were differences between Mr Salafia
and between Mr Salafia's experts as to what constituted the core Tara area.

In those circumstances and in the absence of any representation in the proceedings for people in the Tara area who would be directly affected by such a declaration, it was not permissible for the court to make any such declaration.

Among other key findings of Mr Justice Smyth was that even if the Supreme Court upheld arguments in its forthcoming judgment on the Carrickmines Castle case that Section 8 of the National Monuments
Amendment Act was unconstitutional, he was satisfied that protections for national monuments, which he held were built in to Section 14 of the same Act, were "constitutionally sound".

Meanwhile, TaraWatch, a group supporting Mr Salafia's case, says it will continue to lobby the Government to halt work in the Tara Skryne Valley on all archaeological sites. While TaraWatch maintains that all monuments in the valley are part of the national monument of Tara, by association, two newly discovered monuments at Collierstown and Baronstown are discrete national monuments in their own right, and should be protected.

The NRA archaeologist, Mary Deevy, points out that these sites have not been fully excavated yet, and were included in the report furnished to Minister Dick Roche prior to his decision on excavations along the route. They are known about since 2004.

Preliminary topsoil testing and removal was carried out on the sites which are possible prehistoric or early medieval. The Baronstown site is a large ditched enclosure complex which was a possible ritual enclosure or settlement complex, while the Collierstown site, a single pit with an intact pot, was a burial site.

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