PROTESTERS blocking the M3 motorway passing near the Hill of Tara have now turned their attention to a similar campaign in the ancient Biblical city of Damascus.
The Syrian government wants to build an eight-lane motorway through two ancient districts of the Syrian capital to improve infrastructure. Angry local residents face eviction orders and have been offered compensation to relocate.
Both Tara and Damascus are on the 2007 World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites.
Damascus, which is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, is also listed as a World Heritage Site. According to the Bible, St Paul was converted to Christianity while on the road to Damascus.
Tara Watch spokesman Vincent Salafia described the motorway plans in Damascus as "an abomination. It is another infrastructure versus heritage debate but there is always an engineering solution to these dilemmas. The motorway can probably be re-routed if a little more money is spent."
Damascus is getting a facelift as it has been selected as Arab Cultural Capital for 2008 by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. The proposed motorway is to run between Bab al-Salaam and Bab Touma, two of the city's old gates. The government believes the road will make it easier to get into the old city and lessen traffic inside its walls. But conservationists argue many of the buildings being demolished are of significant heritage importance.
The planned M3 runs through the heart of the Tara Skryne valley in Co Meath and opponents claim it will ruin the landscape and destroy many archaeological sites.
Work on the M3 was due to begin last summer but unforeseen archaeological discoveries have delayed full construction, particularly along the controversial stretch between Navan and Dunshaughlin.
Tara Watch campaigners plan another protest to Leinster House next month.