Tuesday 25 September 2007

Stars pull strings to try to protect historic Tara

IT'S a long way from Tinseltown to the Hill of Tara but Hollywood star Stuart Townsend was one of the first to make the journey when he heard his ancestral homeland was under threat.

His famous girlfriend Charlize Theron was too busy filming to travel, but that did not stop him sacrificing his time to help protect the site of the druids.

The heartthrob from Howth aligned his body with thousands of others yesterday to make up a string in the world's first human harp on the famous Meath mound.

Over 3,000 people posed for an unprecedented aerial shot at the ancient site in protest at plans to site the M3 motorway nearby.

Townsend had a guiding hand in the proceedings and even brought in a pal to snap the spectacular formation from a helicopter, but laughed at suggestions that he is becoming the Bono of the environmental world.

It was a thrilling, if bizarre, moment for more than a few fans to find themselves side by side with Charlize Theron's boyfriend to form the shape of the traditional instrument.

They were in for another A-list surprise when the not unpleasant shape of actor and Hugo Boss 'face' Jonathan Rhys Meyers also appeared on the sacred ground. The actor, who has more recently been travelling through time to the era of the Tudors for a TV series, was able to put the authoritarian skills he developed as Henry VIII to good use as he roused the Tara campaigners.

Addressing the crowd, he said it was not just the motorway that was horrible, but the subsequent development it would bring.

The actor, who was born in Cork and brought up in Dublin, said he appreciated the untouched landscape that remained in Ireland far more since he moved to the US.

He said he would like his grandchildren to be able to feel the same way.

Harps or no harps, Townsend also showed that acting was not the only string in his bow.

He is exhausted after directing a film about another, very different, protest at the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference of 1999.

The actor will finally getting a complete break next week when he heads down the country for a holiday.

"I haven't been home for a while and want to see some friends," he said. "Charlize is working. She wants to be here, but is overworked.

"I am exhausted from the filming process. I went to the Toronto Film Festival and was involved with marketing the movie."

He revealed that -- despite rumours -- himself and Charlize have not tied the knot.

"We didn't get married," he said. "Every week someone says we are or that we're splitting up.

"We're married in our hearts and have been together for seven years and have dogs, live in a house, and plan to have children. We don't need the Church or the state."

Despite his opposition to the motorway, he was compassionate about the predicament faced by the new Green Environment Minister and invited John Gormley to meet him to discuss an alternative plan for Tara.

"I'm sure he's a good guy and will try to do his best but in a way his hands are tied behind his back," he said. "His party does not have many seats and that probably curtails his power.

"Politics is politics and who knows what pressure John Gormley's under. I really hope he considers the Tarawatch plan and there is a breakthrough."

Irish Independent

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