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4 February 2006
High Court decision day in M3-Tara case is 1st March

Mr Justice Thomas Smyth of the Irish High Court will give his decision on the M3 motorway case on 1st March next, following a seven-day hearing. Campaigner Vincent Salafia is challenging the Minister for the Environment, the State, Meath County Council and the National Roads Authority (NRA) on the routing of the proposed motorway through the Tara-Skryne Valley. On the final day of the hearing last week, Mr Justice Smith ruled that he did not require to hear oral evidence by archaeologists and other experts to determine legal issues in the case.
     Counsel for Vincent Salafia had earlier argued that there were factual disputes in the case, particularly relating to whether the greater Tara area constitutes a national monument. It was submitted that the court should hear oral evidence from experts on such matters and determine whether the greater Tara landscape is a national monument. The lawyers for the minister, the State, Meath County Council and the NRA argued that oral evidence was not necessary to determine the legal issues and submitted none of Mr Salafia’s experts had sworn on affidavit that any of 38 sites discovered during test trenching of the proposed M3 route constituted national monuments.
     While there were conflicting views and opinions by highly qualified experts on both sides, those views were not focused on any issue which he must determine, the judge ruled. These matters of opinion regarding the archaeological landscape, culture and heritage of the Tara area were extremely interesting but he had to keep firmly focused on the issues. He did not see that his decision not to permit oral evidence deprived Mr Salafia of any benefit in the case, the judge added. Mr Salafia is seeking to overturn the directions given by the minister and is also challenging the constitutionality of provisions of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 2004 on the grounds that they give the minister an unreviewable and unfettered discretion to disapply protections for national monuments.

Source: The Meath Chronicle (4 February 2006)

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