The campaign by the Hill of Allen Action Group in relation to the quarrying of the hill by Roadstone took a new twist last week, with the claim that two recorded monuments are located at the summit of the hill. In a statement on Friday last, the action group said that "shocking new evidence" had been uncovered, in the form of an ancient burial chamber (cist) and a burial mound (tumulus) at the summit.
Moreover, the monuments are listed on documentation held in Kildare County Council's own heritage section, although no reference to them has been made to date in any of the council's statements on the Roadstone issue.
The action group's statement continued: "These ancient and fragile monuments, protected by the National Monuments Acts, are within the boundaries of the quarry operated by Roadstone at the hill."
It went on to claim that while the monuments in question were listed in the statutory Record of Monuments and Places (a list compliled by the Archaeological Survey of Ireland), they did not appear on Roadstone's registration papers or maps when they registered the quarry with Kildare County Council in 2006.
According to Miriam Mulcahy from the action group, the only monument of any significance in the vicinity of the hill acknowledged by Roadstone in their quarry registration was the tower.
"In a letter to senior planner George Perry, dated 31 January 2006, Roadstone said: ‘The only archaeological monument or other archaeological remains located on or within 500 metres of the quarry site is the tower situate on the Hill of Allen, known as Aylmer's Folly.'"
She added that the company also included in its supporting documentation a map locating Aylmer's Folly as the only monument on the site. "In the planning file, there is no acknowledgment by Kildare County Council of the burial chamber and burial mound monuments, and no indication that the planners have consulted with or intend to consult with the National Monuments Service or any other statutory bodies," said Ms. Mulcahy.
Any monument listed in the RMP is protected under the National Monuments Acts and the onus is on the landowner to be informed of the existence of recorded monuments on their land. Damage to a monument listed in the RMP is a criminal offence, subject to steep fines and possible imprisonment.
"Archaeologists could tell without any digging, just by looking at the landscape, that there is at least one burial site there. With a formal assessment, who knows what more they might find?" said Ms. Mulcahy.
"It appears that Roadstone and Kildare County Council are simply pretending that the monuments do not exist. If the parties do not acknowledge them, they are not protecting them either," she added. "We have already argued that a planning application and an environmental impact assessment were absolutely required in the case of Roadstone's Allen quarry, under both Irish and European law. A planning application would have set in motion the mechanism that requires planners to check the RMP for undisclosed monuments, and an environmental impact assessment would necessarily have included a detailed archaeological assessment carried out by a qualified archaeologist," Ms. Mulcahy stated.
Kildare County Council said last week (prior to the claim in respect of the monuments) that an agreement recently negotiated with Roadstone in relation to the Allen quarry would be signed in the near future and would then form an entry on the planning register and become public information.
Asked this week for a comment on the latest developments, a council spokesperson said: "The Hill of Allen Action Group has not made the council aware of any findings and it would be advised to do so. As things stand, Kildare County Council cannot comment on the issue."
Yet the Hill of Allen Action Group maintains that the existence of the burial chamber and mound is verified by documents held in the council's own offices. "The Record of Monuments and Places (RMP) should be held by the planning or heritage offices in each local authority. We asked in Kildare County Council's planning section and were told it was not available there. Then we tried the heritage officer and initially she didn't seem sure what we were talking about, but then she produced the RMP."
The documents, including maps and listings, clearly identify the Hill of Allen as the location of "Tumulus, possible site" and "Cist site."
In a letter to all of Kildare's county councillors, the Hill of Allen Action Group has stated: "Please do not stand by and allow the desecration of these Monuments, which are the graves of our ancestors. We respectfully request that you demand immediate answers from the planning department, refuse to support this material contravention of the development plan, and, if necessary, reject their agreement with Roadstone under section 3 of the City and County Management Act, 1955."