Thursday 28 June 2007

Gormley heard of Roche's decision 'by text'

ENVIRONMENT Minister John Gormley first heard about his predecessor Dick Roche's controversial decison on the Lismullen monument near Tara by text message.

He was sitting in the chamber on the first day of the new Dail.

"Neither I nor any of my party colleagues had any prior contact with Mr Roche on this issue," he said.

The decision means that archaeologists will record the monument before it is built over for the M3 motorway.

The minister said that he had examined the department file regarding the directions given to the National Roads Authority on the Lismullen monument and that Mr Roche "followed the procedures prescribed under the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 2004".

He said the unequivocal legal advice from the Attorney General to him is that he cannot amend or review the decision made by his predecessor.

Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd, who raised the issue in the Dail and said his party were supporting the selected route of the M3, criticised the Green Party, saying it had "betrayed its base" on the issue.

However, Mr Gormley said that all he was hearing from Fine Gael was "sour grapes and nothing more" because they were not in government.

He always had the impression that Fine Gael was totally committed to building the road through the Tara-Skryne valley and Mr O'Dowd had confirmed it, he said.

Meanwhile, the special committee established to ensure that excavation of the monument at Lismullen was carried out to the highest and most transparent standard, met yesterday for the first time.

Mr Gormley appointed Dr Conor Newman of the Department of Archaeology at NUI Galway, who is recognised as an expert on Tara, to the committee, which also includes Dr Pat Wallace of the National Museum, Prof Garbiel Cooney, head of archaeology at UCD, and the National Roads Authority.

The minister said he would soon release the file on Lismullen to the media to ensure the highest levels of transparency.

Geraldine Collins
Irish Independent

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