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7 May 2007
Discovery of a henge halts M3 work in Ireland

The Irish Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, has ordered that work be stopped on the highly controversial M3 motorway near Tara, Co Meath (Ireland), because of the discovery of a substantial national monument. The archaeological site was discovered in Lismullen beside the Hill of Tara, and is said to be the size of three football fields.
     It had been the Save Tara Campaign that first alerted the National Museum to the potential significance of the Liamullen site, a wood henge which is within 100mts of the Rath Lugh monument, and directly within the path of the proposed motorway. It is known that the Museum immediately contacted the NRA seeking information on the find. Henges are generally used for ceremonial activity and this directly links the Valley with the top of the Hill of Tara where a similar henge was found by the Discovery Programme archaeologists Conor Newman and Joe Fenwick.
     The Lismullen site had not been accurately identified during the initial archaeological survey of the route and the discovery of a henge almost 80mts in diameter and comprising of two concentric circles caused surprise to the archaeological contractors and to the National Roads Authority. It would appear that there are underground passages associated with the henge.
     The highway was planned to pass less than a mile from the Hill of Tara, the site of a 5,000-year-old passage tomb, burial grounds and ancient stone monuments. "Everybody knew that this route was destined to destroy the landscape of Tara if it went ahead," the Campaign to Save Tara group said in a statement welcoming the halt. Work had begun a day earlier. Ireland's National Roads Authority said before construction began that it was "unlikely that any major archaeological site would be uncovered during the construction stage" because of the 'unprecedented' level of study during planning. Environment Minister Dick Roche is consulting the director of Ireland's National Museum on the discovery and is awaiting a report by the National Monuments Service.
     Michael Canney from the Save Tara Campaign said: "Minister Cullen and the NRA must now admit that this road is wholly inappropriate for the landscape of Tara and initiate a review of the whole project."
     
Sources: RTE News (1 May 2007), Bloomberg, Save Tara Press Release (2 May 2007)

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