Sunday 20 April 2008

M3 protesters focus on Gormley's Unesco plan

RENEWED CALLS to reroute the M3 motorway from the valleys of Tara and Skryne in Co Meath have been made in response to Minister for the Environment John Gormley's recent comments on the site.

The Minister said last week he did not see the planned M3 motorway preventing the Hill of Tara from being nominated as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) world heritage site. He said he believed it would be possible to take a series of initiatives to preserve the Gabhra Valley between the Hill of Tara and the Hill of Skryne.

Campaigners believe Tara would struggle to achieve the status Mr Gormley desires because of the nature of the works.

Vincent Salafia of Tarawatch said the Minister's proposal had created an opportunity to revisit the whole issue. "We're calling on Unesco to designate the Tara site and to insist that the motorway be rerouted from the area."

Mr Salafia said the designation of Tara as a world heritage site could drum up international support. "International pressure is our best hope for saving Tara. If Ireland wants to use Unesco to help deliver tourists to world heritage sites in Ireland, they must enforce Unesco standards of preservation in those areas."

He also said there was a possibility that another legal challenge to try to reroute the motorway would take place.

His comments came yesterday on International Day for Monuments and Sites 2008, which was marked by a World Heritage Forum at Trinity College, Dublin. The theme for the forum, which focused heavily on the Hill of Tara situation, was "Religious Heritage and Sacred Places".

Dr Sarah Alyn-Stacey, of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Trinity College, asked why the Minister had left it until this late stage to seek Unecso status for the Tara site when archaeological evidence of the site's historic wealth had been present for so long.

Speaking last week, Mr Gormley said his department had engaged Dr Jukka Jokilehto, a Finnish-born conservation expert, to visit Tara and the other sites on what is known as the "tentative list" for Unesco.

The Irish Times

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