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The curse of Tara?

Sir - The Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, is soon to decide whether or not to grant licences for the excavation of the 38-plus archaeological sites and monuments that will be directly impacted by that part of the M3 toll-motorway planned to traverse the Tara-Skryne valley. His decision will be made in the knowledge that expert opinion is now united in its assertion t

Sir - The Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, is soon to decide whether or not to grant licences for the excavation of the 38-plus archaeological sites and monuments that will be directly impacted by that part of the M3 toll-motorway planned to traverse the Tara-Skryne valley. His decision will be made in the knowledge that expert opinion is now united in its assertion that this short stretch of motorway and major interchange will significantly impinge on Tara and cause irrevocable damage to the cultural integrity of its landscape.

In short, the debate in support of rerouting this part of the M3 on the basis of archaeological, historical and environmental grounds has been won. It is now incumbent on the Minister to muster the necessary resolve and moral conviction to make his decision accordingly.

The Minister's primary responsibilities clearly reside in the sphere of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. His decision, therefore, must be removed, and be seen to be removed, from the increasingly vocal and vested self-interests of the commercial sector, big business and developers. If choosing to endorse the proposed route, does the Minister risk sharing the fate of Lugaid mac Con, one the legendary kings of Tara?

In attempting to provide an explanation for the remarkable earthworks on the western flanks of the Hill known as the Cloenfhearta (Sloping Trenches), the medieval author of this allegorical tale relates how Tara's royal court collapsed on pronouncement of an ill-informed judgment.

While not suggesting that Dail Eireann would collapse down a hole, it is evident that the credibility of the Department with responsibility for heritage will be severely undermined should this development proceed as planned. The damage that would be inflicted on Tara, our national pride and our international standing as guardians of European heritage, however, will be all the more devastating. Joe Fenwick, Department of Archaeology, NUI, Galway

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