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EU accused of failing to halt 'Taliban destruction' of Tara

THE impact of the M3 motorway near the Hill of Tara was compared with the "Taliban's destruction of Afghanistan's heritage" at an EU parliament committee yesterday.

Members of the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society made an impassioned plea to the parliament's petitions committee yesterday to intervene in the row.

The society claimed the EU was not prepared to take action against Ireland for not enforcing regulations aimed at protecting heritage. The group was one of three which made submissions yesterday.

Spokesman Martin Dier said hopes the EU Commission might intervene and stop construction had been "dashed", adding that a "destruction akin to the Taliban's destruction of Afghanistan's cultural heritage" had been perpetrated.

"We first approached your committee in June 2005, at a time when we believed it was still possible to avert a major cultural disaster," he said.

"We believe that the M3/Tara situation is a glaring example of the inadequate protections given to our archaeological and cultural heritage. All through our involvement with the process we have experienced ignorance, incompetence, obstruction, inequality, wilful misinformation, ticking-of-the-boxes exercises dressed up as public consultation and the pervading influence of vested business and political interests."

Controversy

The project has been dogged by controversy since it emerged a section of the motorway would travel through the Tara/Skryne Valley, an important archaeological site.

The National Roads Authority (NRA) rejected claims that the public consultation process was a rubber-stamping exercise, saying a "rigorous" consultation process was undertaken.

The other petitions on the M3 came from Andrew McGrath, on behalf of the Tara Foundation, and Kim Montia.

MEP Kathy Sinnott said the petitioners had showed how the EU Commission had failed to act in a timely manner.

"The European Commission is taking the Irish Government to court for construction that is illegal under the Environmental Impact Assessment directive," she said. "However, delays in taking action have allowed the Irish Government and the NRA to continue to destroy some of Ireland's most important heritage. Petitioners rightfully demand an explanation from the Commission for their failure."

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