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22 July 2007
People arrested during Tara protests

Four men arrested over a protest at the construction site of the M3 motorway near the Hill of Tara in County Meath have been sent to prison. Three woman were also arrested after scuffles with construction workers at the project. The four were jailed after refusing to accept bail terms which would stop them protesting at the site. All seven will return to court next week on charges of offensive conduct and breaching the peace. The protesters said they will seek to have the charges dismissed as 'they were not in the public highway when protesting'.
     The company building the road claimed a construction worker was hospitalised following clashes with protesters. Protesters also claim they were 'assaulted' by construction workers. In a statement, Eurolink said "The incident happened a couple of hours after gardaí were called to the M3 construction site at 7am," the statement said. "Five protesters delayed commuters on the way to work by blocking the N3 for approximately 45 minutes from 7am this morning, in an effort to stop construction workers going to work at the Blundelstown Interchange construction site." A spokesman for Tarawatch denied there had been any assault on construction workers but said demonstrators "were physically assaulted by constuction workers" at the site. ireland.com witnessed no delays to commuters on the N3 shortly after 7am. There were, however, signs of protesters, who have been present at a number of sites along the route at various times in recent weeks.
     Members of the Tarawatch group said up to 60 protesters were at the site at Soldier Hill on the northern slope of the Hill of Tara, where work is underway on the interchange. A spokeswoman for the protesters said they had been trying to block diggers and bulldozers when one person was "thrown to the ground" by a group of about five construction workers. Another person had his hand hurt, she said. The Tarawatch spokeswoman called for a moratorium on all work on the M3 until a full investigation of the route was undertaken by the European Commission. The National Roads Authority insists the current route is the only one feasible and that it is necessary to reduce congestion on the existing N3 and to reduce commuting times between Clonee and Kells, Co Meath. The European Commission is investigating whether aspects of the road may be in breach of EU law.
     On the other hand, a senior state archaeologist said fears about the impact of the controversial M3 motorway on the Hill of Tara had been overestimated. The National Roads Authority's (NRA's) Mary Deevy said she believed the proposed road would not impact on the Tara landscape in Co Meath and was further from the ancient site than the existing carriageway. Ms Deevy reiterated the state's position that the motorway will not impact on the Tara monument and would be further from the ancient site than the existing road. "It saddens me to think that people would think that." She added some fears about the future development of the Tara area were legitimate, but said a landscape conservation scheme was being considered by Meath County Council which had been included in the current county development plan. This would restrict the construction of large-scale housing developments and retail outlets.

Sources: BBC News, The Irish Times (18 and 20 July 2007)

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