Frank McDonald, Environment Editor
The Irish Times
Mon, Jul 17, 06
A group of protesters against the controversial M3 motorway have been told by the Garda that they could be prosecuted for setting up a “solidarity camp” on the Hill of Tara.
Acting at the behest of the Office of Public Works (OPW), Garda officers visited the site on Saturday and warned the campers that they could be charged under the 2002 Housing Act, which criminalises trespass on public or private land.
TaraWatch, which is campaigning against plans to route the M3 past the Hill of Tara, said people had camped there for decades and none had been prosecuted. It said the Act was being “used as a subterfuge to suppress free speech”.
In this case, TaraWatch spokeswoman Siobhán Rice said the core group of six or seven people who set up the camp had been threatened with prosecution, “not because of what they are doing, but what they are saying, which is to save Tara”.
“TaraWatch welcomes the action taken by these campers and thanks them for their brave expression of support for the campaign to re-route the M3 away from the Tara complex”, she said, calling on members of the public to visit the camp and show their support.
In a statement, those involved in the protest said it was “a people’s solidarity camp”, independent of any campaign or political party. “We welcome any friends of Tara to our solstice vigil fire, which has been burning since the summer solstice,” they added.
According to TaraWatch, the campers have said that they intend to remain on the hill to “perform and complete a religious ceremony” which would conclude on August 2nd. “This right to exercise their religious beliefs is protected in Irish law”, it said.
A spokesman for the OPW said it normally did not permit people to camp on heritage sites, but made an exception for those who wanted to camp on the Hill of Tara for the solstice on June 21st. “When they stayed on and refused to move, we notified the gardaí”.
The spokesman said there were no camping facilities or running water on the site, so there was an issue of hygiene involved.
When asked if the Garda had been requested to intervene because the group was protesting against the M3, he said: “Not at all”.
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