Tara and the M3 Toll Motorway
The letter that follows this statement has been issued by leading archaeologists and historians to express their concerns regarding the National Road Authoritys (NRA) plan to construct a section of the M3 toll-motorway through the Tara-Skreen valley. These concerns have been raised on a number of occasions and in different fora by Irish, British, European and American academics and have been vindicated in the past week following the publication of the NRA's reports on its hurried programme of archaeological test-trenching of this section of the motorway corridor.
The points continually raised by these leading academics may be summarised concisely as follows:
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL INVESTIGATION OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS HAVE
CONCLUSIVELY DEMONSTRATED THAT WHAT WAS UNDERSTOOD TO BE TARA IN ANTIQUITY
CONSISTS OF THE HILL AND ITS HINTERLAND.
THIS AREA IS RECOGNISED, BOTH NATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY, AS A LANDSCAPE
OF EXTREME IMPORTANCE.
THE NRAS TESTING AND PROPOSED PROGRAMME OF RESCUE/SALVAGE EXCAVATION
IS NOT PART OF AN INTEGRATED RESEARCH DESIGN, WHICH SHOULD BE A STANDARD
PREREQUISITE IN SUCH CULTURALLY SENSITIVE LANDSCAPES. THE NRA IS NOT AN
ARCHAEOLOGICAL AUTHORITY, ITS PRIMARY FUNCTION IS TO BUILD ROADS. ITS
REMIT, THEREFORE, IS NOT TO DICTATE NATIONAL STANDARDS IN ARCHAEOLOGICAL
PRACTICE BUT RATHER TO FOLLOW THEM.
THE ACADEMICS WHO HAVE SIGNED THE ATTACHED LETTER AND OTHERS ARE FULLY
AWARE OF THE ECONOMIC NECESSITIES OF THE NATION AND FULLY SUPPORT THE
IMPLEMENTATION OF NECESSARY INFRA-STRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENTS IN A RESPONSIBLE,
TRANSPARENT AND ETHICAL MANNER. THEY ARE NOT OPPOSED TO THE CONSTRUCTION
OF THIS ROAD, BUT ARE CALLING FOR ONE SECTION OF IT TO BE RE-ROUTED AWAY
WHAT THEY AND OTHERS QUESTION IS THE NEED TO SACRIFICE EXCEPTIONAL ELEMENTS OF OUR HERITAGE WHEN EQUALLY SENSIBLE AND VIABLE SOLUTIONS CAN BE FOUND, IF THE AUTHORITIES ARE PREPARED TO GENUINELY LISTEN.
For additional information see: http://www.nuigalway.ie/archaeology/Tara_M3.html
JOINT-LETTER: Tara and the M3 toll-motorway
The planned route of the M3 toll-motorway and major floodlit interchange at Blundelstown, (lying little more than 1.5km from the Banqueting Hall on the hilltop) will cut through the heart of this exceptionally sensitive landscape. In so doing it will irreparably damage the cultural integrity of this nationally and internationally significant archaeological complex. The construction of housing and industrial estates that will inevitably follow in its wake will destroy Taras environmental context forever.
It was acknowledged as early as 2000 in the N3 Navan to Dunshaughlin Route Selection report and reiterated in the Environmental Impact Statement (2002) that "this section of the M3 runs through one of the richest and best-known archaeological landscapes in Europe". Ironically, this is once again confirmed by the recent announcement from the NRA that test trenching along the proposed route between Navan and Dunshaughlin alone has uncovered no fewer than 28 archaeological sites and major complexes. This news, though alarming, is entirely as predicted by experts researching Tara. As usual, one can expect yet further discoveries in advance of road construction. Irrespective, however, of the large numbers of monuments, the destruction of this intact archaeological landscape is too great a price to pay should this development proceed as planned.
We are not opponents of progress and development, but sometimes, in exceptional circumstances, it is necessary to question and reconsider major development decisions. The case of Tara is just such an exception. Are we in danger of repeating the same bitterly regretted mistakes as were made at Stonehenge? In that instance a major road has to be replaced by a tunnel, at enormous expense, in an attempt to ameliorate the irreversible damage inflicted on Britains foremost archaeological monument and cultural landscape.
In the case of Tara and the M3 there are viable and realistic alternatives where both infrastructure and heritage can be successfully accommodated (without requiring a tunnel). Tara is the crossroads at which we should pause to reflect on the direction we, as a nation, choose to take with regard to our unique and valuable heritage. We cannot afford to get it wrong.