ONE of the world's leading museums has included the Hill of Tara in a list of must-see endangered cultural treasures.
The latest edition of the 'Smithsonian Magazine', which is attached to the influential American museum of the same name, has compared the Co Meath site to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, thought to mark the birth place of Jesus.
Campaign group Tarawatch, which is seeking to reroute the controversial M3 motorway away from Tara, said that unless the road is moved, the area will never be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
"The Smithsonian is one of the world's leading cultural institutions and authorities, and their opinion rubbishes the claims made by Environment Minister John Gormley that the M3 is not an obstacle to making Tara a World Heritage Site," said campaigner Vincent Salafia.
Mr Salafia said that action must be taken now to "avoid the Stonehenge scenario" where the British Government has been told by UNESCO that it must move roads from around the ancient site. The 'Smithsonian Magazine' quotes Professor George Eogan, who is critical of the current motorway plans and is also a member of the expert advisory panel established by the environment minister to review Ireland's tentative list for World Heritage Sites.
Prof Eogan said that the notion that the site would not be damaged as long as the M3 didn't actually go through the hill was "the greatest bit of nonsense that I've every heard".
When asked if Mr Gormley will be reviewing plans for the M3 in light of the Smithsonian list, the minister's spokesman said: "The minister has no function regarding the rerouting of the motorway."