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Smithsonian joins fight to save the Hill of Tara

A prestigious US magazine has featured Co Meath's Hill of Tara as controversy continues over the plan for the M3 motorway.

The Smithsonian Magazine, attached to the Smithsonian Institution, includes the beauty spot among "15 Must See Endangered Culture Treasures" in its March issue. Also included on the list are the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem and the Fenestrelle Fortress, Italy -- known as the Great Wall of the Alps.

"Some of the world's most precious historic and artistic sites can be visited today -- but might be gone tomorrow," the magazine said.

The Smithsonian Institution is the world's largest museum complex and research organisation. The magazine says: "The archaeologically rich complex on and around the Hill of Tara is seen by many as the spiritual and historic heart of Ireland.

"More than 100 kings were crowned at Tara and St Patrick is said to have stopped there to seek royal permission before spreading his message of Christianity."

Professor George Eogan, who is on the Expert Advisory Panel established by Environment Minister John Gormley to review Ireland's Tentative List of Unesco World Heritage Sites, is quoted as saying of the M3:"If it doesn't go through the hill, then it's not damaging the site? That is the greatest bit of nonsense I've heard."

The article notes that the M3's proponents argue it will improve life for tens of thousands of commuters and that the new road will be almost a mile away from the actual Hill of Tara.

But it says that while it is scheduled for completion in 2010, it may be delayed by the global recession.

Tara is attracting increased international attention and is under consideration to become a Unesco World Heritage site.