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Archaeo News 

15 January 2007
Land protection near Tara still debated

Preparatory work for the new M3 motorway from Clonee to Kells in Co Meath (Ireland) was temporarily disrupted when Save Tara campaigners held a protest against the controversial road. A handful of protesters entered a site at Baronstown, near Dunshaughlin, where scrub, trees and soil were being removed. They sat in front of machinery that was being used to move the scrub. They also sat in the buckets of earth-moving equipment to prevent them from being used. Work on the site was halted and workers vacated the area in advance of an inspection by health and safety consultants.
     The action marked the beginning of a campaign against preparatory tree felling along the route of the M3, including near national monument Rath Lugh, the site of a promontory fort in the Tara-Skryne Valley and at Ardsallagh, where a large number of trees have been removed.
     Protesters argued that work other than archaeological excavation should not be taking place before an oral hearing on the National Roads Authority (NRA) draft tolling scheme for the motorway takes place later this month and before contracts have been signed with Eurolink, who are the preferred bidder for the project.
     Local Sinn Féin councillor Joe Reilly has called for work on the route of the M3 to cease as the public-private partnership contract has not yet been signed. However, a spokesman for the NRA said the preparatory work was not part of the main contract to build the M3 but was being done ahead of the site transfer and was being carried out by a firm sub-contracted to Meath County Council. On Save Tara's protest, the spokesman said the contractor had taken appropriate measures.
     In a Save Tara statement, it said that the public should visit the sites where trees had been felled to verify - contrary to claims by its proponents - that the motorway would be closer to Tara than the existing N3. Save Tara said that the tree-felling at Rath Lugh, near Lismullin, and at Blundelstown "shows without doubt that the new road and the planned interchange are closer to the top of the hill than the existing road".
     Noting that the Gabhra river runs beside the N3, it said that the motorway would drive over it. Gabhra means "white mare", and horses are associated with the kingship of Tara. Horse bones were found on the hill.
     The statement said that three Tara experts had warned of this 'rather ignominious end for a once proud and important monument'. In a paper in 2004, Joe Fenwick, Conor Newman and Edel Bhreathnach said that the M3 would 'destroy the spatial and visual integrity of the archaeological and historical landscape of Tara as well as removing from it key component monuments'.

Source: Irish Times (4 and 6 January 2007), Yahoo! Groups

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