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15 February 2009
Hill of Tara nominated for World Heritage Site status

The Tara landscape (Ireland) has been nominated by the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society (MAHS) for inclusion in UNESCO's tentative list of World Heritage Sites currently being drawn up by the Department of the Environment. The society says the Tara landscape fulfils World Heritage Site requirements, being an archaeological, historical and cultural landscape of outstanding universal value.
     In its detailed submission, the society adds that the landscape is a unique archaeological, historical, ceremonial, political and cultural landscape focused around the Hill of Tara complex, which served as a necropolis, sanctuary, ritual and royal centre for successive peoples over thousands of years. "Apart from the dense and varied collection of archaeological sites on the Hill of Tara itself, the Tara landscape comprises a rich and diverse collection of archaeological sites and complexes from the prehistoric to the early historic and medieval periods, including burial monuments, habitation sites, ritual and religious sites and complexes, hillforts, enclosures, souterrains and linear embankments, all testifying to continuous settlement and ceremonial use by different cultures over the millennia," it goes on.
     The society pointed out that recent research by the Discovery Programme has uncovered evidence of further sites and complexes, and archaeological investigations associated with the M3 motorway have further testified to the richness of the archaeological remains. MAHS believes that, while the extent of the Tara landscape is complex, a working definition can be arrived at, based on the recent multi disciplinary Tara Survey. This would give an area of 49sq km, roughly equivalent in size to the Bru na Boinne World Heritage Site, and corresponding with the historic definition of the Royal Demesne of Tara - an area comprising and surrounding the core areas of the Hill of Tara and the Hill of Skryne (including the Gabhra valley and Lismullin), and with a buffer zone.
     The society's main concerns for the Tara landscape relate to the threat of inappropriate development, the lack of effective legislative protection and the dangers of neglect/mismanagement. "The decision to route a section of the M3 tolled motorway through the heart of the Tara landscape has not only severely damaged the integrity of this ancient landscape but it has also raised real concerns as to the prospect of secondary development further threatening the heritage and landscape," the MAHS submission states. "The society is concerned that further damaging development may be permitted in the future. In addition, the landscape is not protected under national heritage legislation and even designated national monuments are no longer fully protected since the National Monuments Amendment Act 2004. In effect, only World Heritage Site status will afford the landscape the protection and management it deserves while also enabling and facilitating further research into its rich treasures," MAHS adds in its extensive submission.
     Whatever the outcome, nothing can be done to retrieve the despoiled landscape round the Hill of Tara from the intrusion of the new motorway, but at this late stage at least a recognition of its importance to world heritage can be recorded, and further development stopped.

Sources: Meath Chronicle (11 February 2009), Heritage Action Journal (14 February 2009)

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