CONSERVATIONISTS have hit out at Green Party leader John Gormley after his department included the Hill of Tara on a shortlist of seven sites put forward for world heritage status.
Campaigners from Save Newgrange and Tara Watch accused the Government of failing to protect Newgrange – which already has the coveted Unesco title – and Tara, the seat of the High Kings of Ireland.
The controversial M3 is passing just under a mile from the ancient hill, while other plans have been drawn up for the N2 Slane bypass only 1,600ft from the Newgrange-Brú na Bóinne complex.
Vincent Salafia said the groups would protest at a Unesco meeting in Brazil this summer over Ireland’s treatment of heritage sites.
"We support the nomination of the Hill of Tara as a world heritage site, but only on condition that measures are taken to mitigate the damage caused by the M3," he said.
"The proposal for the N2 Slane Bypass is in direct contravention of Unesco’s instructions, to limit development ‘in and around’ the site.
"We are also going to demand that Ireland is forced to amend the National Monuments Act, since the current act does not give adequate protection for anyworld heritage site in Ireland."
The Government’s so-called "tentative list" includes Georgian Dublin, known as the Historic City of Dublin; extensive Stone Age settlements on the Ceide Fields in north-west Mayo; the Burren, Co Clare; the monastic city of Clonmacnoise; western stone forts including Dún Aonghusa in Aran; early medieval monastic sites Durrow, Glendalough, Inis Cealtra, Kells and Monasterboice. Also included is the already nominated Clonmacnoise; and the royal sites such as Tara, Cashel, Dún Ailinne, Hill of Uisneach and the Rathcroghan complex.
Mr Gormley, who announced the shortlist, said: "Our heritage properties areour legacy, not just in Ireland but globally."
Ireland already has three Unesco sites – the Giant’s Causeway in Co Antrim, listed in 1986; the Newgrange-Brú na Bóinne complex, protected in 1993; and Skellig Michael off Co Kerry, included in 1996.
In the Government’s nomination it states the royal sites, such as Tara, are "unique expressions of Irish society".
It describes them as places of royal inauguration, ceremony and assembly representing each of the five provinces of ancient Ireland.
"The sites are also significant as symbols of indigenous Irish culture and identity directly associated with politics and power in Ireland through theages, stretching from pre-colonial kingship to early political mobilisation in the 20th century," it added.
Save Newgrange and Tara Watch plan to make presentations to Unesco officials on the road works around the sites when the World Heritage Committee meets from July 25 to August 3 in Brasilia.