Theron brushes up on the Hill of Tara
The Sunday Times September 26, 2004 By Scott Millar
THE Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron is supporting a campaign against the construction of the M3 motorway, which skirts the Hill of Tara.
Theron is to have a specially commissioned portrait of herself auctioned in order to raise funds for the campaign against the Clonee-Kells motorway through the Tara Skryne valley.
South African actress, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of a
serial killer in Monster, is the girlfriend of the Irish film star Stuart
Townsend who has also become a vocal supporter of the anti-motorway campaign.
Townsend said: Barely anyone has tried to stop what surely will be one of the greatest archeological travesties of our time, second only to the ancient artifacts stolen in Iraq. But they had to start a war to get away with that one. We here in Ireland seem to just be happy to let road builders dig up and tear through the most ancient and sacred place that exists in our land.
The 29-year-old actresss portrait is to be painted by Jim Fitzpatrick, an artist whose work is inspired by Celtic mythology and who is best known for his print of the revolutionary Che Guevera. Fitzpatrick hopes to begin the painting next month and expects it will take him at least six weeks.
The idea is to auction it to raise money for the campaign, he said. I was a strong supporter of saving the remains of Carrickmines castle. What happened there was unfortunate but the emotional connection was not the same. The Hill of Tara is the Vatican as far as Im concerned. I understand the significance of these things, every schoolchild does too, but unfortunately minister Martin Cullen seems not to.
Fitzpatrick considered painting Tara but says Theron is a very beautiful woman and if we want to get international attention a portrait of her would be 10 times better. Stuart approached me with the idea and I thought it was the only thing to do.
Townsend, 32, who starred in About Adam and appears in the upcoming Head in the Clouds, is expected to visit Ireland with Theron in the next few weeks. Tara is a place I hold very dear to my heart. Every Irish person should. I have gathered for the solstice both in Tara and at Uisneach many times, he said. We are potentially having an event at Tara in the near future. This is also to raise awareness and attract some press for what I consider to be a defining issue in the current state of affairs in Ireland.
The campaign to stop the M3 road has drawn support from a wide range of historians, archeologists, artists and politicians as well as local people. A geophysical survey carried out in 2000 identified nine sites of archaeological significance in the area that would be disturbed by the proposed motorway, which excludes the Hill of Tara and its immediate environs. Continuing archeological surveys commissioned by Meath county council at the behest of the National Roads Authority (NRA) have now discovered 26 more.
Among the more significant finds along the 32-mile route of the M3 are three large enclosed settlement sites or medieval farmsteads, four prehistoric burial sites and one Bronze Age house. A range of other archaeological features have also been found, including a medieval house and field system, two pit kilns and several prehistoric burnt mounds.
The foundations of five early modern houses including a post office and a cottage dating from the early 19th century were also uncovered. The NRA says that up to €20m will be spent on surveys and protection costs along the route. What most upsets some historians and environmentalists is the disturbance to the serene nature of the Hill of Tara area. The hill was the ancient site of enthronement of the high kings of Ireland and was the centre of ceremonial political control from mythological times till the Tudor invasions.
spiritual significance of Tara was first challenged by St Patrick, who
on the evening before Easter in AD433 is said to have lit a fire on the
nearby hill of Slane to illustrate the power of his religion. At the time,
Easter was not celebrated. The Irish marked the Beltaine festival, which
celebrated the coming of spring, and it was the tradition that only the
high king could light
A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said: The proposed route of this road is actually further away from the Hill of Tara than the existing road. The decision on the route is really a planning matter to be dealt with by the local council and the NRA. The only role the minister plays is making judgments based on archeological concerns. Any decision by the minister on this will be based on independent archeological advice.
The Save Tara Skryne Valley Group is run by Vincent Salafia, an American-trained lawyer who has put his name forward as a presidential candidate in order to highlight the environmental campaign. Salafia says his nomination is currently being considered by a number of independents and the Green party.
The fact that we are now getting an even wider support group including people like Fitzpatrick, Stuart and Charlize really brings the campaign to another level, he said.
The legal ruling on Carrickmines castle also gives us a new legal stance, not that it is accepted that there is a constitutional onus on the government as regards protecting the nations heritage.