Thursday 21 June 2007

Tara road campaigners call for new legal advice

ENVIRONMENT Minister John Gormley must seek independent legal advice on whether he can revoke an order allowing the destruction of a national monument on the route of the controversial M3 motorway, campaigners have claimed.

Yesterday it emerged that newly-appointed Attorney General, Paul Gallagher SC, acted for Meath Co Council last year and opposed a bid to stop construction.

His office has since advised that a decision by former Environment Minister Dick Roche to destroy a national monument cannot be overturned.

Mr Gallagher told the High Court in January last year there was "no basis" to alter the route of the motorway near the Hill of Tara unless a national monument was discovered. But last April a prehistoric ritual site was discovered at Lismullin and designated as a national monument.

An order has since been made to preserve it "by record" which would allow it to be destroyed to facilitate the motorway.

The Campaign to Save Tara said it was concerned that Mr Gallagher acted on behalf of Meath Co Council. "At the very least, the revelation that the AG has acted for Meath County Council so recently and in so closely-related a case means that the minister should be canvassing independent legal advice," said Dr Muireann Ni Bhrolchain.

The campaign also called for all documentation relating to archaeological excavations along the proposed route of the M3 to be reviewed, given that the national monument - the size of three football pitches - was missed by archaeologists.

The National Roads Authority said excavations of the site should be completed by late September, after which diggers would move in.

Ronan Swan, acting chief archaeologist with the NRA, said it received the minister's order last Friday and excavation work should begin in the next three weeks.

But 20pc of the henge will remain as it is on privately-owned land.

"We already have the site plan, which shows us what features are there and how deep they are," Mr Swan said. "It's not all on the M3 - four-fifths of the entire enclosure is in the road take, the rest is in private hands. It's not going to be excavated as part of the road scheme. This occurs frequently where you wouldn't excavate the entire site, and would be in accordance with government guidelines.

"The government policy is you don't excavate more than you need to. The rain and weather has interfered with the condition of the site."

Hundreds of people are expected to arrive at Tara to celebrate the summer solstice this weekend.

Paul Melia
Irish Independent

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