Monday, June 30, 2008

Irish mail on Sunday: Truth on Tara was buried deep due to culture of lies

My findings on Tara were altered, says archaeologist

Irish Mail on Sunday - 29 June 2008 - By Luke Byrne

A LEADING archaeologist employed to survey the M3 Tara Valley route has claimed her findings were changed to support the motorway when in fact there was evidence against it. In a devastating attack, Jo Ronayne - who was working for the National Roads Authority - says her findings were altered before being presented to ministers. Miss Ronayne, who was an excavation director at the Tara valley site in Co. Meath, claims she was told to 'change interpretations' so as to 'lessen to potential of numbers of sites'. And she says she was excluded from NRA meetings in which her evidence was altered before reports were passed on to the Government. The damning allegations will shatter the Governments defence that it would not change the Tara route because there is no significant archaeological site on it. And it will lead to disturbing questions about whether ministers - and in turn the public or even the courts - were misled about the archaeological finds.

Miss Ronayne, who was directly employed by NRA subcontractor Irish Archaeological Consultancy Ltd, suggests in an explosive academic article that her role appeared to have been a sham. 'I didn't realise that the testing and my reports would be used to facilitate rather than stop the project going ahead. Or that they don't let you write the truth in the reports or give you enough time to do a proper job,' she wrote. The archaeologist - whose sister Maggie, an archaeology lecturer in NUI Galway, is due to attend today's World Archaeological Congress in Dublin - remains utterly disenchanted with how she says her reports were used and portrayed. She said: 'I held the licence and was responsible for the work, but the NRA archaeologist would come down and tell me what I should be doing. 'Directors or field archaeologists working on the sites were not allowed to attend meetings where decisions were made by the NRA's own archaeologists about how to interpret and present what we were finding.' She added: 'A number of times I was told to change an interpretation which served to lessen the potential numbers of sites. We were also told to excavate large sections even tough you are not supposed to excavate in the testing phase. 'They edited our reports before the Minister saw them.'

In May 2005, following preliminary archaeological reports made by the NRA, the then-environment minister Dick Roche sanctioned 38 archaeological excavations in the Tara-Skryne valley in Co. Meath, effectively approving the route. It was reports such as those complied by Miss Ronayne that Mr Roche would have been presented with before he eventually gave his approval for the project. Following the decision to go ahead with the road, Miss Ronayne and a number of archaeologists refused to work on the excavations. Since the route of the M3 was approved, there have been a number of protests aimed at highlighting the archaeological value of the stretch of motorway.

However, the results of initial test-trenching were often highlighted by advocates of the route of the motorway. In March 2005, Frank Cosgrave of the Meath Citizens for the M3 group, told the Joint Committee on Environment and Local Government: 'Nothing that could be described as a "national monument" has been found. At the same meeting, Cork TD Billy Kelliher said: 'The argument put forward by the archaeologists with regard to the richness of the area is a bit of a myth.' Labour Environment spokeswoman Joanna Tuffy said: "If this is true, I think we need to bring in a completely independent archaeological survey to make sure that anything that can be salvaged will be. 'At this stage we've already gone too far so we can't turn back.' Miss Tuffy added: 'This incident is something that I will raise in the Dail.


Truth on Tara was buried deep due to culture of lies

Irish Mail on Sunday - EDITORIAL
29 June 2008

BUILDING a much-needed road ought to be reasonably straightforward. Yet, years after Meath commuters were promised the M3 motorway, the project has been hit by another completely avoidable scandal. The revelation of official interference in the archaeological studies at Tara mean more misery for those stuck in tailbacks, but it is the culture of official deception that poses the gravest questions.

A lot of people have been badly misled. Archaeologists hired for their professional expertise and integrity have not in the words of one, been allowed to 'write the truth'. Altering independent advice to fit hidden agendas is a dangerous corruption of working of Government in itself, more typical of systematically dishonest regimes than a democratic country like ours. Dail and public debates were based on information that cannot now be trusted. The courts have been asked to make judgments premised, in part, on studies that contain the taint of offical tampering. And a difficult decision whether to put the real needs of the travelling public nover the genuine loss of a part of our patrimony has been subverted by bureaucrats trusted to give us accurate information.

Those responsible cannot be allowed to hide behind the monolithic facade of the public sector. This is a dishonest decision with serious consequences. The individuals responsible - who must be known to those who can blow the whistle on their misdeeds - must be held to account. But the culture of dishonesty that makes such flagrant interference possible is harder to root out without clear direction from the very top. This is a Government that routinely plays fast and loose with the accuracy of the information it serves up. Bitter experience has taught the public not to take on trust the official information it receives. Yet the truth will always out. Public confidence in politics is as low as it is because political standards are so low. This sort of deliberate dishonesty needs to be stamped out, with the Taoiseach and the Cabinet setting standards at the top.

PRESS RELEASE

TARAWATCH.org

29 June 2008

'Outrage Over NRA Archaeologist Expose On Tara/M3 High Court Case Evidence'

Tarawatch member, Vincent Salafia, is seeking legal advice in response to the article that appeared in today's Irish Mail on Sunday, which contains allegations that the National Roads Authority (NRA) misled the courts, by falsifying reports, which were used in a 2006 High Court case over the M3.

The article quotes an academic paper by NUI Galway archaeologist, Maggie Ronayne, which is to be presented to the Sixth World Archaeological Congress, which is beginning in Dublin today. The
Congress will be debating the ethics of the Hill of Tara/M3 issue.

Maggie quotes an interview with Jo Ronayne, who worked for an archaeological consultancy company, contracted to examine some of the 38 sites. Jo claims: "A number of times I was told to change an
interpretation which served to lessen the potential or numbers of sites." Not only were archaeologists forced to make false statements, she claims, the NRA "edited our reports before the minister saw them."

Salafia sued the Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, as well as Meath County Council, and claimed that many of the 38 sites discovered along the M3 between Navan and Dunshaughlin, were national monuments, which they failed to report, and that the Minister should not have granted licenses to excavate them.

Justice Tom Smyth (now retired) ruled against Mr Salafia, in 2005, because the judge agreed with the NRA archaeologists that none of the 38 sites were in fact national monuments, and also that the greater
Tara complex does not constitute a single national monument. In his judgement, Justice Smyth stated:

"The Applicant alleges that the County Council failed to report the discovery to the Minister. (I reject this as an unfounded allegation as there was no national monument and there was no failure having carried out the exploratory test-trenching on the 38 sites...)"

Salafia lost the cause, and was liable for 600,000 euros in damages, which effectively prevented him from taking a Supreme Court appeal. The loss also resulted in the 38 sites being excavated and demolished,
and M3 construction works proceeding. He agreed to withdraw his Supreme Court appeal, in exchange for the Government not pursuing him for costs.

The loss also had a significant effect on Mr Salafia personally, who was left liable for his own costs, which were also in the hundreds of thousands of Euros.

The case also had an adverse effect on his experts, such as Conor Newman, the new Chairman of the Heritage Council, who had argued that certain sites were national monuments. His professional opinion was
scuppered by the Judge.

TaraWatch were contacted by the World Archaeological Congress Standing Committee on Ethics on 5 June and identified as stakeholders in a round table discussion on the M3 and the Hill of Tara, to be held at UCD, next week. TaraWatch was invited to submit a position paper on the matter. That paper is now being amended, in response to the revelations.

TaraWatch is also travelling to Quebec City for the 32nd Meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, 2-10 July, to lobby on behalf of Tara. We will lobby UNESCO to oppose the proposal of the Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, to make Tara a World Heritage Site, with the M3 bissecting it, and insist that the M3 motorway is re-routed first.

Mr Salafia of TaraWatch said today, in response to the article:

"I am astonished by these revelations of evidence fabrication. They confirm what we have suspected all along, but have never been able to prove. It appears that the NRA lied about everything, misled the Courts, and are intentionally wrecking Tara.

"I was accused of wasting the tax-payers money, when it now appears NRA were wrongfully using tax-payers money, not just to destroy our environment, but to destroy peoples lives.

"Legal advice is immediately being sought, and we are calling for a full Dail investigation into the affair. There may also be a possibility of vacating the judgement, and suing for damages.

"Work should cease immediately on M3, and the entire matter must be re-evaluated. While many of the national monuments are gone, the M3 is still two years from completion, and should not be completed
through the middle of the Tara landscape.

"We call on John Gormley, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, to stand up and exercise his constitutional duty to protect our national heritage, and to put an end to this scandal
for once and for all."

"These revelations are bound to have a major impact on UNESCO. We are very optimistic that the UN will now find against the Irish Government in this case, and that the European Commission will now seek an injunction, in ongoing case against Ireland over the M3.

ENDS

Contact - Laura Grealish 087-972-8603 / Vincent Salafia 087-132-3365 or email info@tarawatch.org

EXCERPT FROM MAGGIE RONAYNE PAPER, QUOTING JO RONAYNE:

"Jo Ronayne directed M3 test trenches for IAC Ltd (Irish Archaeological Consultancy, one of the archaeology companies contracted to work on the M3). She says:

I should have said no when asked to direct on it but I didn't have the experience to realize that the testing and my reports would be used to facilitate rather than stop the project going ahead. Or that they don't let you write the truth in the reports or give you enough time to do a proper job. I suppose I thought I and others could make a difference by showing the wealth of what was there, that it might stop the motorway. After a while I realized that the NRA would not let this happen. I was the director, I held the license and was responsible for the work, but the NRA archaeologist would come down and tell me what I should be doing. And directors or field archaeologists working on the sites were not allowed to attend meetings where decisions were made by the National Roads Authority's own archaeologists about how to interpret and present what WE were finding.

A number of times I was told to change an interpretation which served to lessen the potential or numbers of sites. We were also told to excavate large sections into one type of site [fulachta fiadh or Bronze Age mounds] even though you are not supposed to excavate in the testing phase. They edited our reports before the minister saw them. (Interview, 2006)

[From page 122 of 'The State We Are in on the Eve of World Archaeological Congress (WAC) 6: Archaeology in Ireland vs Corporate Takeover' in Public Archaeology, Vol. 7, No. 2, Summer 2008, 114-129 by Maggie Ronayne, Department of Archaeology, National University of Ireland, Galway]

1 comment:

corrupt eire said...

astonishing and despicable.