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14 November 2013
Donkey sanctuary threatens Bronze Age sites in Ireland

Kerry County Council confirmed it had given the go-ahead for a donkey sanctuary and roadway now under construction in a unique Bronze Age valley near the Conor Pass - the highest mountain pass in Ireland - which contains dozens of archaeological monuments. The Council said it had made its ruling 'based on the information it was given'. No archaeological survey was demanded by the Council.
     The donkey sanctuary is within an archaeological complex of recorded monuments and the proximity to the monuments is causing concern.  Archaeologists from the National Monuments Service and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht are on their way to the Loch a Dúin valley near Cloghane amid concerns the development may be too close to a large fulacht fiadh (a Bronze Age cooking pit) and other archaeological monuments, including 12km of pre-bog field walls dating from the Bronze Age.
     More than half a kilometre of roadway has been constructed and work has begun on the donkey sanctuary. An initial inspection of the site has been undertaken by the council’s planning staff and the county archaeologist to determine if the development is being carried out in according with the exemption issued. The matter has also been referred to the National Monuments Section of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The council said it would be carrying out further detailed inspections and will contact the developer in the coming days.
     An archaeologist who has part-surveyed the valley said the entire area with its structures thousands of years old was to the Bronze Age what the Céide Fields in Mayo were to the Stone Age in terms of significant monuments.

Edited from Irish Examiner (9 November 2013)

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