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16 March 2008
Controversy over M3 motorway in Ireland still rages on

The Irish National Roads Authority is insisting that construction work on the controversial M3 motorway in Co Meath (Ireland) is not damaging a protected national monument at Rath Lugh. Campaigners against the road claim the work is undermining the ancient fort around 2.5kms from the Hill of Tara. A protestor has chained herself inside a tunnel dug into the hill in an effort to prevent the work from going ahead. The Gardai are currently monitoring the situation. The NRA, meanwhile, says the construction work is not encroaching on the footprint of Rath Lugh and is necessary in order to install a wall that will protect the monument. Rath Lugh is located about 3.7km (2.3 miles) northeast of the Hill of Tara and is divided from the hill by the existing N3 road.
     The group demonstrating against work on the M3 motorway in County Meath has sought a High Court injunction to try and stop any further construction on the site. Peadar O Ceallaigh, who represented the group in court, told Ms Justice Mary Laffoy that he was seeking an injunction to stop the sale of lands around the fort at Rath Lugh and any development on it, because it is a national monument and the subject of a protection order. He claimed the roadworks endangered Rath Lugh and that a woman 'trapped' in a tunnel underneath the road route was in danger from the impact of heavy diggers passing over it. He also called for an independent archaeological survey of the area to be commissioned.
     However, the application by protesters for an injunction to halt work on the M3 Dublin-Navan motorway on grounds of safety and potential damage to a national monument linked to the Hill of Tara has been rejected by the High Court. Refusing to grant the injunction, Ms Justice Laffoy said Mr ” Ceallaigh had no legal standing to make an application on behalf of a person in a tunnel. A challenge to the route of the M3 had already been dismissed by the High Court and an appeal to the Supreme Court was withdrawn, the judge noted.
     The subterranean protester is refusing to emerge from a 10m (33ft) deep tunnel dug into the motorway site. Lisa Feeney from Dublin, said that she was 'comfortable', well-equipped and was passing her time by reading a book by candlelight. "They haven't cut off my air supply, so I'm prepared to stay here for months," she added.
     Ms Feeney and other M3 protesters had dug a shaft directly down into the steep embankment of the Rath Lugh "esker" - a glacial formation of rock and sand - since August, supporting the sides with pieces of plywood and timber. Protesters said that Ms Feeney had chained herself to the car jack, which also served as the main structural support for the chamber where she is holding out.    
     Meath County Council fire officers yesterday refused to enter the tunnel to try to bring her to the surface.  Phillip Cantwell, an independent councillor with Trim town council, said the motorway builders did not have the necessary approval to remove the protesters and begin work on Rath Lugh. SeŠn O'Neill, a spokesman for the National Roads Authority, said the workers were trying to build a 'crib wall' to support the Rath Lugh esker. "What the protesters are doing is counter-productive," said Mr O'Neill.

Sources: Belfast Telegraph, Independent, RTE News (13 March 2008), The Irish Times (14 March 2008)

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