Ancient sites threatned
by motorway

Fingal Independent, April 28, 2000, Page 1:

CONCERNED Ashbourne residents have claimed that archaeological sites in the Ashbourne area are ‘in jeopardy’ despite assurances to the contrary by Meath County Council.

The current controversy arose over the preferred route for the Ashbourne by-pass, a route which locals say would take the motorway through four archaeological sites and within 100 metres of three more. The oldest site dates from around 4000 BC.

An alliance of the Baltrasna/Fleenstown Residents Association, the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society and the Ashbourne Historical Society have united to oppose the current route and members are calling on Arts and Heritage Minister Síle de Valera to intervene before it’s too late.

‘Now is the time to get something done, not six months down the line when the bulldozers are trundling through the fields,’ according to Hugh McAtamney from the residents association.

The campaign has also got the support of eminent archaeologist and former Dean of Archaeology at UCD, Professor George Eogan, who called for ‘a thorough investigation’ of the relevant areas to be carried out.

When contacted one council spokesperson was adamant that any concerns of local people would be taken on board as part of the process.

‘When the process moves onto a selected route part of the normal process is to carry out a detailed Environmental Impact Study and an important part of this is the archaeology of the chosen area.’

The spokesperson reiterated that other factors, including flora and fauna, numbers of properties to be demolished and agriculture, would also also considered.

‘You have to bear in mind that the preferred route is a corridor many times the breadth of the eventual motorway and at this stage the design team can ameliorate the impact of the motorway,’ the spokesperson said.

This has done nothing to convince the residents group, with Mr McAtamney describing the council reaction as ‘a pure PR statement’.

‘If we wait for the EIS then nothing will be done for another few months and by that time the process will be more set in stone and the CPO’s [Compulsory Purchase Orders] will be prepared. This is particularly a problem in Meath where archaeological sites are like measles,’ he says.

The three groups are putting pressure on local politicians to get a message through to Minister de Valera, claiming that ‘now is the time to apply pressure’.

The sites first came to light following archaeological survey work being carried out by former Ashbourne resident and teacher Ephrem Feeley in the early 90s. None of the sites are included in the Archaeological Inventory of Co Meath, published in 1987.

Many of the sites identified by Mr Feeley date from the early Christian period but one is 6,000 years old. Among the features are two souterrains and a ringditch in Baltrasna, a possible fortified hill-site at Fleenstown Little and a ringditch at Killegland.

Read the story on the Fingal Independent website

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