| 5 July 2008
Findings on Tara were altered, says archaeologist
Archaeologists working on excavations on the controversial M3 motorway near Tara (co. Meath, Ireland) feared they would be 'sacked, blacklisted or bullied out of their profession' for not supporting the building of the chosen route, it was claimed. Speaking at the sixth World Archaeological Congress (WAC-6) at UCD, Maggie Ronayne, a lecturer at the Department of Archaeology at NUI, Galway, said that pressure was put on site directors and field teams by archaeologists employed by the National Roads Authority (NRA). "Lip service was paid to archaeology but archaeologists were used to destroy our heritage," said Ms Ronayne. "From the point of view of archaeology, the route chosen by the NRA was the least desirable and other routes were not properly considered because they were not profitable for developers."
Ms Ronayne, who was an excavation director at the Tara valley site in Co. Meath, recently claimed that reports submitted to the NRA had been changed to support the motorway when in fact there was evidence against it. Miss Ronayne claimed she was told to 'change interpretations' so as to 'lessen to potential of numbers of sites'. And she said she was excluded from NRA meetings in which her evidence was altered before reports were passed on to the Government. She said she would be asking congress to pass a resolution calling for the re-routing of the M3. Ms Ronayne also said that the Minister for the Environment's decision to support the nomination of the Hill of Tara as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) world heritage site, given the construction of the motorway, could have serious implications for other sites worldwide and could be to the detriment of the local community.
Discussing the archaeological impact from the building of the motorway, chief archaeologist, Brian Duffy said that it was impossible to consider building a major road anywhere in the country without it having an impact. Laura Grealish of TaraWatch, called on the congress to pass a resolution demanding a stop to work on the M3 in its present route. The High Court ruled in 2005 that none of the 38 areas examined before construction on the road began were national monuments and that the wider area around the Hill of Tara could not be considered a single national monument.
Labour Environment spokeswoman Joanna Tuffy said: "I think we need to bring in a completely independent archaeological survey to make sure that anything that can be salvaged will be. At this stage we’ve already gone too far so we can’t turn back." TaraWatch will this week meet officials from the UNESCO group as it continues its campaign to have the Hill of Tara and surrounding lands declared a World Heritage Site.
Sources: TaraWatch, Irish Mail on Sunday (29 June 2008), Independent (30 June 2008), Irish Times (3 July 2008)
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