THE GOVERNMENT was never officially told that work on the controversial M3 motorway near the Hill of Tara would have to stop until a comprehensive assessment was carried out on its impact in the area.
The first that Environment Minister John Gormley heard of the order from the EU Commission was when he read yesterday's Irish Independent.
And Mr Gormley will today raise the issue with EU officials at an informal meeting of environment ministers in Lisbon.
A spokesman said yesterday neither the departments of transport or environment were told of the decision, and that formal lines of communication were never used.
"No-one has come to the Government and said you cannot build this road," he said. "He (the minister) will be raising the issue at the highest level. There's been no formal communication, it's unorthodox to say the least."
The EU Commission said that discovery of a national monument along the motorway route at Lismullin, Co Meath, meant an Environmental Impact Assessment would have to be carried out to measure the impact the road would have on the area.
Ireland faces the prospect of millions of euro in fines if it allows the motorway to proceed, but it is arguing that an EIA is not required as the national monument is being removed.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said yesterday the decision in relation to the M3 motorway has been made and will not be changed.
"We can have all the theories we like but the decision is made," said Mr Dempsey.
He said the only thing that could change the routing of the road was if significant archaeological finds were made.
Minister Dempsey said the EU had questioned the legality of a decision made by former Environment Minister Dick Roche to excavate and then remove the monument from the route, and the Department would be giving "a very robust defence" to the questions raised.
"The reasoned opinion is ready and that reply will be with the Commission soon."
Asked about a request from an EU committee for a moratorium, Mr Dempsey said: "Our response would be 'thank you for your opinion, we have followed the EU procedures on an extremely important project and we need to get on with it'.
"This is an extremely important project for Ireland and our infrastructure and we need to get on with it.
"As I see our case, we have answered all the questions."
Mr Dempsey said he agreed with Environment Minister John Gormley's stance that there won't be any major development along the route.
"I would certainly agree with that. People are afraid there is going to be the kind of developments such as shopping centres and I agreed with them on that point. This would not be acceptable," he said.