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Wahington Post on Tara Motorway


Gael

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Jan 9, 2004
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162
In Ireland, Commuters vs. Kings
Road Plan Clashes With Protection of Ancient Tara

By Glenn Frankel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, January 22, 2005; Page A01

TARA, Ireland -- Her name was Tea, and one Celtic legend says an
ancient Irish king named Erimhon fell madly in love with her in Spain
and enticed her back to his native land. As a wedding present, he gave
her the most beautiful hill in all of Ireland and named it after her.

The Hill of Tara, as it is known today, rises gently from some of
Europe's richest pastures, an emerald vista dotted with a network of
man-made burial mounds, earthworks and monumental stones. For people
who lived here beginning 6,000 years ago, this was the most sacred
place on Earth, the site of coronations, festivals and myths, and the
entry point to the netherworld where the dead dwell for eternity.

These days the Hill of Tara is not only one of Ireland's most legendary
sites but the focus of one of its most bitter controversies. The
country's road planners, seeking to ease traffic congestion in the
booming exurbs of the capital, Dublin, 25 miles away, are preparing a
four-lane highway through the picturesque Skryne Valley that lies just
east of the hill.

Most local residents, frazzled by two-hour commutes down the narrow,
two-lane rural turnpike that is their only direct route to Dublin,
passionately favor the highway. But a determined band of opponents,
spearheaded by archaeologists, environmentalists and preservationists,
is fighting it every step of the way, threatening legal action that
could hang up the project for a decade or kill it altogether.

This is very much a tale of modern Ireland and its new prosperity. Over
the past decade, an economically stagnant isle has been transformed
into the Celtic Tiger, with double-digit annual growth fueled by a
high-tech boom and generous subsidies from the European Union.

Ireland's population, depleted for more than a century by emigration,
famine and poverty, has now surpassed 4 million -- its highest level in
more than 130 years. New housing is mushrooming across the countryside
and road traffic has nearly doubled in the past 10 years.

One of the leaders of the Save Tara Skryne Valley Group is Vincent
Salafia, 39, who left southern Ireland in 1983, as did perhaps half his
high school graduating class. He went to college and law school in
Florida and returned home seven years ago when the boom and a sense of
homesickness proved irresistible. Salafia says he's keenly aware that
he's fighting the impact of the same prosperity that drew him back to
Ireland.

"It struck me things were changing very rapidly and that the Ireland I
knew was disappearing," he says. "It's beginning to look more and more
like Florida: a big building boom and no one paying attention to
environmental or heritage issues."

The battle for Tara began in earnest two years ago after the National
Roads Authority proposed the M3 motorway. The 70-mile road is designed
to ease congestion heading from Dublin to County Meath, a blend of old
farms and new housing tracts much like Virginia's Loudoun County of
three decades ago. Meath's population has more than doubled over the
past decade and is projected to double again during the next. Parts of
the N3, the sole existing two-lane road to Dublin, carry two to three
times the traffic it was designed for, and the accident rate is 50
percent higher than the national average.

On a typical evening, traffic heading northwest from Dublin slows to a
crawl from the interchange with the M50 all the way to the burgeoning
town of Navan 20 miles away. Tommy Reilly, a local politician who runs
a newspaper shop in Navan, says that when he opens at 6 a.m., the main
road, which goes through the middle of each town, is already choked
with traffic and fumes of commuters heading south.

The national road planners looked at 10 different routes for a new
motorway and settled on the one they contend would cause the least
amount of damage -- including not only archaeological issues but impact
on air and water quality and the number of houses and trees that would
have to be removed. The state planning board held 28 days of public
hearings and confirmed the choice.

There are 120,000 known archaeological monuments in Ireland and
hundreds of thousands more beneath the surface; road planners argue
that it's almost impossible to stick a spade in the ground without
hitting something of value. Excavators marking out the roadway have
already uncovered 38 archaeological finds.

Those deemed valuable will be recorded and packed off to the national
museum in Dublin. "We have to live in the real world," says Michael
Egan, spokesman for the National Roads Authority. "There's no perfect
alternative but we've done our best to balance the issues."

The heart of the conflict is over the size and meaning of the Hill of
Tara. Proponents of the motorway insist the hill should be seen solely
as the oval promontory of a few hundred acres currently under state
protection. By that reckoning, the new motorway would be at least a
mile away -- in most places, farther than the current N3.

But opponents contend that a realistic definition of the hill must
include the adjoining valley and nearby Hill of Skryne, all of which
formed a coherent civilization from the Iron Age and are honeycombed
with dozens of invaluable archaeological sites and a rich, if largely
buried, history.

"There are monuments and sites throughout the area that define the core
zone of the Hill of Tara and the royal domain around it, and the
motorway is literally going right through the middle of it," says Conor
Newman, an archaeologist at the National University of Ireland at
Galway, who has studied the region for 13 years.

On a clear day much of Ireland's heartland is visible from Tara's
crest. Its features include the Mound of Hostages, which is aligned to
the rising sun and full moon, and dates to 2500 B.C., and the ancient
coronation stone known as the Lia Fail, scene of the inauguration of
the 142 kings said to have reigned here. St. Patrick, Ireland's patron
saint, journeyed to Tara in A.D. 433 to challenge the power of the
wizards.

In more recent times, 400 Irish patriots died in a battle with British
soldiers atop the hill, and author Margaret Mitchell took the name for
Scarlett O'Hara's plantation in "Gone With the Wind."

Opponents have gathered support from dozens of archaeologists and
historians throughout Ireland and the world, including the
Archaeological Institute of America and the European Association of
Archaeologists. Many local residents resent this invasion by outsiders,
known derisively as "blow-ins."

Michael Cassidy, president of the Navan Chamber of Commerce, says the
lack of adequate roads means the area cannot attract new businesses
that would bring jobs and save many residents from heading south to
Dublin every morning. He resents campaigners who have moved to the area
simply to oppose the road. "These people are going on the national
airwaves claiming to be residents and it's not true," he says.

Michael Slavin, a local historian who has written about the hill and
leads a group called Friends of Tara, says that 90 percent of the
residents of County Meath support the project, but that opponents have
mobilized the news media and international opposition through distorted
arguments and use of the Internet. "To say the motorway is going
through the Hill of Tara is like saying the Washington Monument could
be destroyed by a highway built two miles away," he says.

The next decision is in the hands of Dick Roche, the environment
minister, who has to decide whether to give the excavators permission
to dig up and move archaeological finds. No matter what he decides,
both sides expect the matter to wind up in court.

"We realize we can't freeze-frame the whole country," says
archaeologist Newman. "But the Hill of Tara has exceptional importance
and status conferred upon us by our ancestors from pre-history."
 

ocoonassa

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By the ghosts of hippies and archaeologists
 

owedtojoy

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I never accepted the logic of the motorway being built where it was.

Old maps can show you that there were once many more monuments around Tara - but they have gradually disappeared though land use and farming. any hope of excavating these is now gone.

The other point is the modern focus on the hilltop is completely wrong - the evidence indicates that the Tara-Skryne valley was a sacred landscape where the streams and land had a ritual significance.

I think the motorway was built to give two fingers to anyone who cared about Ireland's heritage. It basically said "We're in charge, and we will build what we like where we like."

Local politicians who are campaigning for local jobs also supported the motorway that takes the residents of Navan (at least those who have work) to their jobs in Dublin. Navan is Dublin suburbia. County Meath is a characterless parcel of land with three motorways running through it. The county has some interesting sites that tourists take buses out from Dublin to visit. But if you are looking for a tourist industry, you will not find one.
 

LowIQ

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N1, N2 & N3 running parallel to each other about 10 miles apart in one of the least densely populated countries in Europe? Back before the N2 was done, people took the M1 to Carrickmacross and cut over to Monaghan. The country is too small for all these roads. Based on our population centres, we need a hub and spoke system. This malarkey of running everything in to O'Connell Street needs to stop.
 

dresden8

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Local politicians who are campaigning for local jobs also supported the motorway that takes the residents of Navan (at least those who have work) to their jobs in Dublin. Navan is Dublin suburbia. County Meath is a characterless parcel of land with three motorways running through it. The county has some interesting sites that tourists take buses out from Dublin to visit. But if you are looking for a tourist industry, you will not find one.
You're right, if some fat greedy FF/FG/PD bastard isn't making any money out of it just bulldoze the cnt.
 

TommyO'Brien

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The interesting thing about that bloody motorway after all the destruction is that is hardly being used. I travelled on it recently at a "busy" time. From the passenger seat, looking at a stretch where you could see a couple of miles either way, I counted six cars. :mad: People who use it regularly say it is the same all the time. Even at rush hour it is only slightly busy.

What a criminal waste building that bloody thing.
 

Skypeme

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The only haunting around here is the resurrection of yet another 'dead' thread from the distant past with no reasonable explanation of why it occurred or what prompted the apparition.

Haunting indeed!
 

LowIQ

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The only haunting around here is the resurrection of yet another 'dead' thread from the distant past with no reasonable explanation of why it occurred or what prompted the apparition.

Haunting indeed!
Oh no! Are you upset? What a horrible thing to discover people made some right calls five years ago! Such ancient history. Let sleeping dogs lie. We are where we are.
 

BlackLion

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By the ghosts of hippies and archaeologists
it has been said on warm nights like this a wierd hallucinogenic smoke appears out of the hippie ghost Van and locals say they can hear haunting laughing and sniggering and all the nearby snacks are taken. :0
 

owedtojoy

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The interesting thing about that bloody motorway after all the destruction is that is hardly being used. I travelled on it recently at a "busy" time. From the passenger seat, looking at a stretch where you could see a couple of miles either way, I counted six cars. :mad: People who use it regularly say it is the same all the time. Even at rush hour it is only slightly busy.

What a criminal waste building that bloody thing.
Apparently, the Government (i.e. the taxpayer) has to pay National Toll Roads compensation because it is underutilised.
 

Skypeme

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Oh no! Are you upset? What a horrible thing to discover people made some right calls five years ago! Such ancient history. Let sleeping dogs lie. We are where we are.
Please don't upset yourself! Just that we have been here before. I recall an RTE news clip - on 'Reeling In the Years', if I recall correctly. The reporter was standing in the middle of the M50, telling us that the road was "empty of traffic" and may well be a "white elephant". Just try that stunt now!
 

DuineEile

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What was done at Tara was criminal. I hope in more enlightened times someone gets jail for it, rather like priests being jailed for things that happened in the 60s/70s.

D
 

Thekinghasnoclothes

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Very little Archaelogy would be discovered were it not for engineering operations.

We have had life on this planet for 500 million years. There is a kilometer deep of sedimentary limestone over most of Meath, which records hundreds of millions of years of history. You can't live in this Country without making an impact on the landscape.

The new motorway will become the archaelogy of the future. If the whingers of a few thousand years ago had objected at the time of building what was built a few thousand years ago there would be nothing there now.
 

The Irregular11

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What was done at Tara was criminal. I hope in more enlightened times someone gets jail for it, rather like priests being jailed for things that happened in the 60s/70s.

D
Agreed, probably the most important sites/areas in Ireland's history..and they build a motorway/dual carriageway through it.

Disgraceful...but not unexpected in 'modern' Ireland.
 
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