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19 September 2009
Controversial motorway in Ireland is 90% complete

The controversial M3 motorway in Co Meath (Ireland), which has been the subject of several years of protests, is now almost 90 per cent complete, the National Roads Authority (NRA) has said. At almost 60km of main motorway and a further 40km of link roads and interchanges, the it is one of the longest motorways under construction in Europe. The M3 is not scheduled to open until July 2010. Work could still finish ahead of this scheduled date, but not before mid-spring next year, the NRA said.
     Controversially, the route runs just over 2km from the Hill of Tara, and adjacent to the Lismullin national monument and the hill fort of Rath Lugh. Protesters have occupied these latter two sites, blocking the road's construction at various times in recent years, most memorably in March last year when conservationist Lisa Feeney shut herself inside a chamber at the bottom of a 33-foot tunnel at Rath Lugh for 60 hours. No protesters are currently blocking or picketing any part of the motorway, and Vincent Salafia of Tarawatch said that such action is unlikely to recur. "The frontline part of the campaign is pretty much over. There are people still protesting in the area, but not on the front line of the road. At this stage any protest on the road would be a largely symbolic gesture, but that doesn't mean the campaign is over."
     Recent changes to the criminal trespass laws had made such protests more difficult, Mr Salafia said, but he said Tarawatch was continuing to campaign against the road and hoped it might still be moved, even after its construction. Moving the road would be a possibility particularly if the Hill of Tara received Unesco World Heritage designation, Mr Salafia said. Tarawatch was also continuing to bring complaints against the NRA to EU bodies in relation to the destruction of ancient archaeology and heritage. Mr Salafia has criticised the cost to the taxpayer of the motorway. However, NRA spokesman Seán O'Neill said Mr Salafia's claims were a distortion of the facts.
     From ground level on top of the Hill of Tara, the new road cannot be discerned. The current N3 is visible, but the new motorway will be slightly further away and the NRA says it will not be visible from Tara. However, no cars currently travel the motorway and there is no lighting, which might in time make the road more apparent from the hill. The proximity of the motorway to the Rath Lugh hill fort is far more stark. The road does not go through the fort, but skirts it incredibly closely, to the extent that a 'crib wall' has been constructed against the fort wall to secure the earthen structure. The road also skirts the national monument at Lismullin. As this site has already been preserved and covered by a farm access road, nothing remains to be seen.

Sources: Irish Times, Tara Watch (16 September 2009)

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