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17 July 2007
No M3/Tara re-routing despite EU warning

Hundreds of people are set to mount protests in Dublin, London and New York today to demonstrate against the construction of the M3 motorway in the Tara-Skryne Valley. A protest march will also be held in Dublin on Saturday, July 21st at 1pm, which will go from the Garden of Remembrance to Custom House, the headquarters of the Department of the Environment. The demonstrations have been arranged by Tarawatch, the group leading the campaign against the destruction of ancient archaeological sites to make way for the controversial road. The Dublin protest takes place outside the Dail, while the Irish Embassies in London and New York will also be targeted. The move comes as Environment Minister John Gormley travels to Brussels for talks with the European Environment Commissioner about the Tara controversy. The EC has threatened to take the Irish Government to court over the matter. It says the plans for the motorway are illegal because of problems with the Environmental Impact Assessment.
     However, the Government said it will not re-route the M3 despite an official warning from the European Commission that it is in breach of European law in relation to the planning of the controversial road. Irish Minister for the Environment John Gormley said he did not have the power to undo the last-minute decision taken by predecessor Dick Roche to sign an order which permits the road works to proceed. But Irish MEP Kathy Sinnott has called on the Government to re-route the M3, saying the legal breach now makes it possible for the Minister to do so. She said Mr Gormley "can and must" re-route the road, which campaigners claim will destroy precious cultural and archaeological heritage near the Hill of Tara site at Lismullen, Co Meath.
     Mr Gormley said the matter had been raised with the Government initially in 2001 and again in 2005 but said that following the legal advice of the Attorney General he was now in a position where "unless there was a material change of circumstances I could not revise the decision that was made by Dick Roche". However, Ms Sinnott said the identification of the Lismullen site as a national monument this year constituted a material change of circumstances and insisted the M3 Motorway project was now "illegal" as it lacks a valid Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). "According to the European Commission a material change has occurred in the shape of the monument at Lismullin, which was not taken into account in the Environmental Impact Assessment conducted in 2003," she said. "This assessment was on the basis that no national monument lay in the path of the road. The discovery and identification of Lismullin as a national monument this year represents a definite change in circumstance that could not have been taken into account at the time of the 2003 EIA," she added.

Sources: Belfast Telegraph, Ireland.com, Independent.ie (12 and 13 July 2007)

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