Wednesday 22 August 2007

Tara ruins must be preserved, US academic warns

NEWLY discovered 2,000-year-old ruins at the ancient Hill of Tara site must be fully preserved because of their unique size and character, according to a US academic.

State archaeologists began excavation work on the prehistoric Lismullen structure earlier this month, claiming it was under threat from adverse weather.

But Dr Ronald Hicks of Ball State University, Indiana, argues it is part of a larger ancient ritual complex and must be preserved in situ.

Controversy has surrounded the site since the ruins were uncovered by workers during construction work on the controversial M3 motorway last April.

Tara Watch, which is demanding the site be preserved, has called on the Government to halt excavation until An Bord Pleanála rules whether a fresh planning application for the road project is needed in light of the find.

“This independent report proves the national monument is much more significant and substantial than the National Roads Authority has reported,” campaigner Vincent Salafia said.

“In light of this report, the minister should halt the demolition works until An Bord Pleanála concludes its current deliberative process,” he said.

Dr Hicks argues Lismullen is comparable to ceremonial enclosures at Tara and other royal sites in Ireland, but is twice as large as any other.

The site’s discovery came a day after then transport minister Martin Cullen turned the sod on the €850 million road project.

The discovery was granted National Monument status and all works were halted.

But in one of his final acts of office, former environment minister Dick Roche used the National Monuments Act 2004 and signed an order of preservation by record, meaning the prehistoric henge would be photographed, sketched and measured, then razed to make way for the motorway.

Environment Minister John Gormley maintains he does not have the authority to revoke his predecessor’s decision without a material change in circumstance.

Tara Watch has sent a solicitor’s letter to Mr Gormley demanding the work be stopped, to which it claims no reply has been received.

Irish Examiner

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