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12 January 2006
M3 case opens in Irish High Court

The Irish High Court has begun hearing an action by conservationists seeking to have the M3 motorway re-routed from the present route through the Tara/Skryne Valley. The action is being defended by the State.
     On 4th July last, Mr Justice Liam McKechnie granted leave to Gerard Hogan SC, for Mr Salafia, of Dodder Vale, Churchtown, Dublin, to bring proceedings challenging directions given by the Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, regarding the treatment of 38 known archaeological sites along a stretch of the proposed M3 motorway. Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan had been waiting for a Supreme Court judgement in the Carrickmines motorway case, which would have a bearing on the Tara proceedings, and was to be delivered in October. This has not yet been delivered, so the judge decided to proceed with the M3 case, which will be heard before Mr Justice Thomas Smyth.
     Campaigners, led by Mr Vincent Salafia, are questioning the constitutionality of existing legislation concerning the protection of national monuments. They want the M3 rerouted away from the Hill of Tara as they are worried about the impact of the development on the archaeological landscape surrounding it.
     The government, Meath County Council, and the National Roads Authority (NRA) argue that the national monument is located at the Hill of Tara and that the surrounding areas are not part of the monument. Pat Wallace of the National Museum said last year that he said that the region was the most important of its type in Ireland, "if not in Europe". That view was challenged by the Government's chief archaeologist, Brian Duffy, who contended that it was not possible to link the surrounding areas with the Hill of Tara because the various archaeological sites were not all from the same period.
     The legality of the planned M3 route will be debated in the hearing, which is expected to last six days.

Sources: BritArch Mailing List, The Meath Chronicle, RTE, UTV (12 january 2006)

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