M3 not to stop Tara getting world status, says Gormley
Irish Times - Friday, April 11, 2008
MINISTER FOR the Environment John Gormley has said he does not see the planned M3 motorway in Co Meath preventing the Hill of Tara from being nominated as a world heritage site. Speaking at a ceremony to mark the legal incorporation of the Irish branch of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, Mr Gormley said that while he had "always been personally opposed to the route of the M3", he believed it would be possible to take a series of initiatives to preserve the Gabhra Valley between the Hill of Tara and the Hill of Skryne. The initiatives - which are to be a series of national rather than county-based preservation orders - would prevent "commercial spread" alongside the motorway, the Minister said. He also said a directive would be put in place to provide landscape protection. Mr Gormley commented that with these measures in place Tara could still meet the strict criteria for incorporation on the list of UN world heritage sites. Such criteria rely heavily on natural or man-made heritage being well preserved.
Mr Gormley said he was conscious that the International Council on Monuments and Sites counted among its number about 7,600 heritage conservation professionals from 106 countries around the world. The Irish branch numbers about 100 and Mr Gormley said he was particularly grateful for their assistance and support to his department in its heritage role. Referring to the review of the tentative list of proposed world heritage sites, Mr Gormley spoke of his desire to include the Hill of Tara national monument in particular. He said his department had engaged Dr Jukka Jokilehto, a Finnish-born conservation expert, to visit Tara and the other sites currently on what is known as the "tentative list" for inclusion. Mr Gormley said Dr Jokilehto had "concluded that the Hill of Tara National monument has strong merit for inclusion in an application to Unesco for consideration as a world heritage site.
"He did not see the proposed new road as being an obstacle to making this recommendation," the Minister said. Mr Gormley also said the formulation of a National Landscape Strategy was a "key commitment for me within the programme for government, and I am eager to kick-start a broad consultative process to drive forward the preparation of this strategy."
He said he would be asking a steering group to propose that the Tara Skryne area be designated as a landscape conservation area. His department had already held discussions with Meath County Council about this. Meath County Council has previously given a commitment that land around the motorway in the sensitive area of the Gabhra Valley would not be rezoned for industrial or commercial uses. However, opponents of the road said this would be particularly difficult to apply in the vicinity of motorway junctions and they pointed out that the Tara Na Ri interchange at Blundlestown is about one mile from the hill itself.
World class: our outstanding sites
Ireland has three Unesco world heritage sites:
The main prehistoric sites of the Brú na Bóinne complex, Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, which are situated on the north bank of the river Boyne 50km north of Dublin.
The monastic complex at Skellig Michael , Co Kerry. This monastic complex, perched on the steep sides of a rocky island, dates from the seventh century. Because of its location about 12km off the coast the site is well preserved.
The Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast , Co Antrim. The Giant's Causeway lies at the foot of the basalt cliffs on the edge of the Antrim plateau in Northern Ireland. It is made up of some 40,000 massive black basalt columns sticking out of the sea. Geological studies over the last 300 years show the striking landscape was caused by volcanic activity some 50-60 million years ago.
In addition the department has prepared a "tentative list" of another eight candidate sites. The list includes: the Burren; the Rock of Cashel; the Ceide Fields; Clara Bog in Co Offaly; the Monastic settlement at Clonmacnoise; Killarney National Park; Northwest Mayo Boglands; Western Stone Forts.
To be included on the world heritage list, sites must be of outstanding universal value in either man-made or natural heritage terms.
M3 'won't derail' Tara heritage bid
THE Hill of Tara can become a UNESCO World Heritage site -- even with a motorway running alongside it. International experts have told Environment Minister John Gormley that the controversial M3 motorway under construction should not stop Ireland's richest archaeological site from joining the Acropolis, Vatican City and Taj Mahal as having "outstanding universal value".
Mr Gormley is to recommend that the Tara Skryne Valley in Co Meath be awarded World Heritage status, and will shortly undertake a conservation plan which will stop any future commercial development in the valley. It is likely that one-off housing applications will be considered, but shopping centres, large-scale housing estates and other commercial developments will not be allowed.
Addressing the International Council on Monuments and Sites last night, Mr Gormley said that Dr Jukka Jokilehto did not see the motorway as excluding the Co Meath site from attaining world heritage status. "I find his remarks very encouraging and it is my view that this site would be a contender for possible World Heritage site."
- Paul Melia