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3 February 2005
The fight against proposed road continues at Hill of Tara

The campaign to save the historic Tara-Skryne Valley in Ireland is struggling along amidst reports of "dirty tricks" from the Government.
    Eamon Gilmore, the Labour party's environment spokesman, claims that Dr Pat Wallace, the Director of the National Museum, was "muzzled" and prevented from attending an Oireachtas Committee which was to discuss the proposed route of the M3 motorway through County Meath.
    Mr Gilmore said "It has emerged that the Director has been prevented from attending this important meeting by the Government. This is muzzling of a senior State official. The pre-determined agenda of the Government is to ram the new M3 right through the Hill of Tara."
    Ciarán Cuffe, the Green Party's environment spokesperson, has demanded that the Minister for Sport, Art and Tourism, Mr O'Donoghue, explains why the Department's Secretary General asked Dr Wallace not to appear before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment.
    "It appears that pressure was applied to ensure that Dr Wallace would not appear before the Committee. Minister O'Donoghue should explain why his civil servants are attempting to gag one of the most foremost archaeologists in the country from giving his opinion on the impact of this motorway on the Hill of Tara, Mr Cuffe said. "I was hoping to ask Dr Wallace to comment on the archaeological importance of the Tara-Skreen site and on the impact of the proposed motorway, but this opportunity has now been denied to myself and other members of the Committee. It seems ludicrous that a civil servant is applying pressure on Dr. Wallace not to appear."
    In another twist, Vincent Salafia, the press officer for the Save Tara/Skryne Valley group, believes that the 2,000 public submissions collected to show opposition to the proposed motorway have been "dismissed". After contacting the Oireacthas Committee, he was told the letters were still being looked at despite the deadline of submissions having passed and the hearings completed.
    The Hill of Tara is the burial place of 140 kings, and is part of a wider historical landscape that potentially contains hundreds of undiscovered sites, such as a ring of protective forts encircling the sacred hill. Tara's oldest monuments date back to 4000 BCE, and and Ireland's kings were crowned on the hill until the arrival of Christianity. Julitta Clancy, secretary of the Meath Archeological and Historical Society, explained that Tara "is important to our psyche, our nation, and our identity. It comes down to the Celtic Tiger turning its back on its Celtic past."

Source: International Herald Tribune / Ireland.com (2 February 2005)

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