Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Activism Can Still Save Tara The Hill of Tara is under threat by the M3 motorway, a massive interchange, and the inevitable industrial, commercial and residential development that will follow. It is not too late to change the route of the M3, to avoid the Tara complex, and TaraWatch is a group lobbying for this to occur.
Musical Tribute It is proposed to produce a musical tribute to the Hill of Tara, in order to raise awareness and possibly money for legal and campaign expenses. Songs like ‘The Rocky Road to Dublin’ and poems like ‘The Rape of Tara’ have been suggested as possible ideas, or an original song or songs could be crafted. It may turn out to be a new single, or a compilation album.
History of the fight In 2000, the National Roads Authority decided to build a motorway from Dublin to Cavan. Up until then the plan was simply to upgrade the N1, N2, N3, and N4 with bypasses and such. During the suvey done for the upgrade to the N3, the following report was made by NRA consultants: "It is recommended that all archaeological sites and their environs as identified be avoided. This recommendation is most strongly urged for the area of and surrounding the Hill of Tara, where current archaeological research is continuing to discover more and more sites…..Based on the paper survey information to hand, it is not possible to suggest a preferred route from an archaeological perspective in the Dunshaughlin North to Navan South section." [Archaeological Assessment Paper Survey - Preliminary Area of Interest N3 Dunshaughlin North to Navan South and Navan West, Co. Meath, Valerie J. Keeley Ltd, June 1999]
But after the National Development Plan was put in place, it was decided to change the upgrade to a motorway, and the following report was made. The following report was made during route selection. "It would be virtually impossible to underestimate the importance of the sensitivity of the archaeological and historical landscape in this area…... Any development, particularly on the scale of the proposed road, will have an immense impact on the landscape. The monuments around Tara cannot be viewed in isolation, or as individual sites, but must be seen in the context of an intact archaeological landscape, which should not under any circumstances be disturbed" [N3 Navan to Dunshaughlin Route Selection - Report by Dr. Annaba Kilfeather, Margaret Gowen & Co. Ltd, for Halcrow Barry, August 2000]
In August 2003, An Bord Pleanala approved the current M3 route, which cuts a new path the valley between Tara and Skryne, right beside the existing N3, and the crosses it, where there will be a 50 acre interchange at Blundelstown. That is closer to Tara than the existing road, and actually changes the contours of the Hill. It is 1,000 metres from the top of the hill. The current route will demolish at least 38 sites between Navan and Dunshaughlin. Many of these lie within the ‘Tara complex’, which extends from Tara to its outlaying defensive features, like Rathmiles, Ringlestown Rath, and Rath Lugh. The M3 will actually sever the central area of Tara from it’s own defensive fort, Rath ugh, with is a massive upstanding Cliffside fort on the northern slope of Skryne. Since August 2003 there has been considerable lobbying done to get the Minister for the Environment, Mr Dick Roche, to refise to give permission for the route to go through Tara. But in May 2005 he gave directions under the National Monuments Act for the excavations along the route to proceed, and they are proceeding, concluding sometime early 2007. Activism The Hill of Tara issue has trundled on now for about 6 years, with no satisfactory end in sight. Despite the fact that a national survey last year showed that over 70% of Irish people survey, wanted the route of the M3 changed, the Irish authorities have dug in their heels, and are pushing ahead in the courts and on the ground.
Tarawatch is a new group set up to use online activism as a means of attaining critical mass, and restoring the democratic deficit on the Tara issue. It already has 500 members. You can join at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hilloftara/. Instead of listening to unequivocal public, professional and scientific opinion, the Irish authorities are pressing ahead with the excavations at Tara and preparations for the M3 motorway. They have abdicated their responsibility and transferred the difficult decision-making on the controversy to the Irish courts, under pressure from small but powerful commercial interests such as, IBEC, the Construction Industry Federation, Meath Chambers of Commerce and private tolls companies, who are bidding on this and other motorway projects in Ireland.
What you can do: While many groups have lobbied for Tara, and fair dues to them, none have been able to build up critical mass. With the issue reaching crisis point, the matter has to be taken to a new level. Irish people throughout the world, and people in general, are appalled when they hear what is happening. The problem is getting the message out. TaraWatch enables anyone, anywhere, to take action now, by:
- Signing an online petition. http://www.petitiononline.com/hilltara/
- Sending letters to newspapers. Instructions at: http://www.hilloftara.info
- Writing to politicians. Instructions at: http://www.hilloftara.info
- Promoting the web sites and petition above, by sending mails and adding sites to engines and directories.
- Joining the Discussion group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hilloftara/.
- Signing up to attend events when informed http://groups.yahoo.com/group/litigation
- Editing web sites like TaraWatch.
- Spreading the word
- Displaying the Save Tara logo http://www.hilloftara.info/images/tarabutton.gif
- Donating to the litigation fund, so a professional and effective case can be completed.
In the courts In the courts, the case of Vincent Salafia –v- The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Ireland; The Attorney General; Meath County Council and the National Roads Authority was dismissed on March 1 2006. Mr. Salafia had argued that the Directions of the Minister, under the National Monuments Act 2004 were illegal; the Act was unconstitutional; the motorway passes through the Hill of Tara national monument or complex of monuments; and that newly discovered sites required that work stop, and a new route be found. Costs of 600,000 euros were assessed against Mr Salafia, because there were three separate legal teams on the opposing side. The case has now been appealed to the Supreme Court and case is also being prepared for the EU.
Massive resources are being thrown into media spin and the legal case. The NRA has invested in a glossy booklet booklet, http://www.m3motorway.ie/Publications/ full-page newspaper advertisements, and animated videos, and well as creating scholarships to bribe academics. http://www.ucd.ie/news/mar06/030206_newman_scholars.htm TaraWatch is the only group supporting and fundraising for litigation.
On the ground. On the ground, excavations are proceeding on the 38 sites found between Navan and Dunshaughlin. The National Roads Authority has a web site http://www.m3motorway.ie showing the sites being excavated. They expect to be finished some time this year. Then road construction will begin. Four consortia are in the bidding for the construction contract, with a preferred bidder having been chosen. Meanwhile, land around the massive 52 acre interchange planned for Blundelstown, 1,000 metres from the tip of the Hill, is being bought up.
The Tara Management Plan, http://www.friendsoftara.com/position.asp for a visitor center at Tara has been drawn up, but has not been released to the public. We need people on the ground in Meath to keep an eye on what is happening there, and to help organize events locally.
Media In the media, the plan has received worldwide attention.
International Herald Tribune
New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com (subscription)
Washington Post and even China News Daily have featured the story.
Stories are archived at http://www.hilloftara.blogspot.com/ and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/taralitigation/
Issues at stake Tara has become a global beacon in the struggle with modernity, and incorporates many civil rights issues:
1. Sovereignty and heritage – What is the duty of the State to protect the national cultural and environmental assets, owned by the people of Ireland?
2. Citizenship. Does citizenship entitle you to take a legal action to protect the national cultural or environmental assets? Does it place an active duty on you to take legal or some other action to protect these assets against abuse by the State and private developers?
3. Privatisation – Are privately run toll roads an economically sound idea, or is it a way of keeping certain small interests very happy? Is it ethical for the Government to take land from a private citizen, at below market value, and hand it over to a toll company who will reap huge profits from it? Is rezoning land for huge profits anti-democratic?
4. Global warming. More roads means more cars. Is the current policy of massive investment in private roads, and little or none in public transport going to lead to a more and more car-dependent State, and possible economic ruin when the oil runs out?
5. Cultural identity. What does it mean to be Irish? Who are we? What are our symbols? What is sacred to us? Do we care?
6. Right to the Environment. The European Convention on Human Rights has been interpreted to recognize ‘environmental rights’. Do these apply to our right to enjoy Tara?
7. Public consultation. The EU Environmental Impact Assessment directives, and the theories of sustainable development, require public consultation during the planning of national infrastructure projects. An Bord Pleanala has ben holding oral hearings, but many who participate in these hearings feel they are a sham, and that the authorities are only going through the motions, and the Bord is only rubberstamping projects because they are in the ‘national interest’.
8. Draconian legislation. Every year more and more laws are being passed which limit citizens rights and increase Government powers, particularly in the area of environmental law. On the other hand, Ireland has the worst environmental record in the EU and the slowest rate of incorporation of EU legislation, such as the overdue AARHUS agreement. In the case of Tara, the Landscape Convention would have made a big difference, but we are not signed up to that either. - The Planning and Development Act 200 limited judicial review of an An Bord Pleanala decision to those who made submissions.
- The National Monuments Act 2004 greatly increased the powers of the Minister for the Environment and decreased protections for monuments. It was basically drafted by the National Roads Authority, in response to the Carrickmines Castle cases.
- Strategic Infrastructure Bill 2006 has just been published and will be making its way through the Oireachtas in the coming weeks. It severely limits the ability of a citizen to challenge a national infrastructure project in the courts, by limiting judicial review to certain types of groups. It also does away with getting planning permission from local authorities. Download a copy of the draft bill
- A new National Monuments Act is currently being drafted by the NRA and the Department of the Environment
9. Waste of public money. The National Roads Authority has overspent by three times the amount of money estimated to complete the National Roads Programme under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. It has gone from 6 billion to 18 billion and they are way behind delivery time too. It has been described as the biggest waste of taxpayers money in the history of the State. Se RTE Prime Time’s ‘The Money Pit’
10. Corruption. Many people are smelling rats all along the pathway of the M3, but nobody has been able to catch one yet. There was a flurry during the by-electin last year when the Fianna Fail candidate stepped down because it had reached the papers that he had bought land in Meath with Frank Dunlop, former press secretary of Fianna Fail, who has been a star witness in the Planning Tribunal. See RTE ‘Riley Withdraws from Election’
TaraWatch The purpose of TaraWatch is to try and harness all those who oppose the current plan, and reach all those who still don’t know about it or haven’t been given an opportunity to express their opinion. So far there has been significant opposition to the plan. The M3 motorway’s route through the Hill of Tara’s archaeological complex has been publicly opposed by: - 70% of Irish people who voted in a national survey by Red C Research, the results of which were reported in The Irish Times. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/taralitigation/message/1 Download the survey at http://www.hilloftara.info/downloads.html
- The Director of the National Museum of Ireland, Mr. Pat Wallace.
- The Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (RSAI).
- The Heritage Council.
- The Discovery Programme, Ireland’s State archaeological research unit.
- Top experts on Tara, Dr. Edel Bhreatnach, Conor Newman and Joe Fenwick
- Sean Haughey, T.D., Chairman of the Environment Committee.
- The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA).
- The European Association of Archaeologists (EAA).
- The Landmarks Trust, New York.
- Members of all Opposition parties in the Oireachtas and Meath County Council: Fine Gael, Sinn Fein, Labour, Green Party, Socialist Party, as well as many Independent members like Senators Maurice Hayes, David Norris, Shane Ross, Joe O’Toole, and current Chairman of Meath County Council Brian Fitzgerald.
- Mr. John Bruton, Irish Ambassador the United States, and former Taoisaeach of Ireland and County Meath TD.
- The Meath Archaeological and Historical Society.
- The Ancient Order of Hibernians, and many other Irish organizations worldwide. - Writers of Opinion/Editorial in newspapers like The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Irish Times, The Irish Independent, The Sunday Tribune, The Sunday Independent, The Sunday Times and The Meath Chronicle.
- Charlize Theron and Stuart Townsend.
- Hundreds of academics worldwide who signed a petition.
- Thousands of people worldwide who signed an online petition.
- Thousands of people who have protested publicly, such as at the march through Dublin city center in March 2004 - Thousands of people who made written objections to the Minister for the Environment, the Environment Committee and Transport Committee.
Hill of Tara litigation http://www.hilloftara.info
Online Petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/hilltara/petition.html
News archive and mailing list: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/taralitigation/
Online Activism mailing list: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/hilloftara
Pauline: Webmaster - pauline1-at-ireland.com
Ger: Secretary - byrnemus-at-eircom.net
Vincent: Legal - salafia-at-gmail.com
Vic: marketing and merchandising - charlesbyrne-at-ireland.com