Tuesday 23 December 2008

There's no light in sight for Gormley as M3 protesters cast a cloud over winter solstice

Hundreds of winter solstice watchers were left disappointed yesterday as the sun failed to shine on Newgrange.

Dull weather prevented the light shining into the 5,000-year-old burial chamber as dawn broke on the shortest day of the year.

Environment Minister John Gormley -- one of 19 VIPs and lottery winners allowed entry to the Neolithic chamber -- didn't get the blame for the sun failing to shine at the ancient Co Meath site.

But the Green Party leader was heckled over his failure to reroute the M3 motorway from historic cultural sites at the Tara and Skryne Valley.

"When you come out Minister John Gormley, will your hands be untied?" shouted Heather Buchanan, from Co Meath. "He talks about sacred land but he doesn't practise what he preaches. I want to know what his intentions are going into the chamber, what does he hope to achieve by entering the chamber? What does he feel coming out of the chamber, I'd love to know, I'm sure the whole nation would love to know that."

Others among the eclectic gathering, who were attempting to meditate before sunrise, accused Ms Buchanan of "ruining" the event.

"Later on, you could have had your chance, but now you've ruined the whole morning for me. Talk to him [John Gormley] afterwards. Don't ruin it for everybody else," said one woman.

When Mr Gormley emerged from the passage tomb, he was confronted for a second time by two protestors.

In response to their criticisms, he told the Irish Independent that he had "no problem" with them but added it was not the "right place".

"It's a day which requires people to meditate and that, I don't think, is actually appropriate. It's not the place to shout, that's my view," he said.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern was also among the chosen few to enter the monument. Although the ray of light failed to show, he said the experience was "fascinating".

It was Mr Ahern's first time inside the tomb, despite him living only 20 minutes away in Dundalk. "The last time I was here, I was a child and I didn't get in," he added.

Hundreds of people travelled from across the country to attend the event, which was also enjoyed by tourists from the US, England, France and the Netherlands.

Noirin Rooney "stayed up all night" to make the journey from Co Tipperary. "We're here to greet the new dawn, the return of the light," she said.

Christine Deady from Co Cork described the experience as "very special". "I'm pretty sure that this is a spiritual momentum, it's the vortex of the year. Also I know that it being the darkest day of the year, for a lot of healers, and people of that persuasion, it's the New Year. This is like New Year's Eve in the spiritual world. I think this means more than the 31st of December," she added.

It was a romantic occasion for one couple, Ed Lyne from Co Kerry and his fiancee Magda Kiarszys, who were celebrating their anniversary at the event. "We got engaged last year on the 21st. We thought we'd come down to see what it was like."

Eimear Ni Bhraonain
Irish Independent


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