Letter to the editor, Irish Times 15 03 05
Madam, - The royal estate of Tara is Ireland's premier national monument,
encapsulating over 5,000 years of extraordinary history and mythology. The
poet WB Yeats wrote: "Tara is, because of its associations, probably the
most consecrated spot in Ireland."
Both of the Irish national symbols, the harp and the shamrock, originate at
Tara. These emblems have been promoted for decades throughout the world by
the Irish Tourist Board to identify something unique about Ireland, and with
great effect: Tara and its symbols have become readily recognisable motifs
for Ireland and for what it is most prized internationally - its culture,
rich history and beautiful landscape. Yet there are current plans to build a
four-lane tolled motorway, the M3, at the foot of the Hill of Tara, with a
major, floodlit, flyover-interchange only 1,200 meters from the summit.
Motorways are generic, and can be seen everywhere; the entire landscape of
Tara is one of a kind, unique in the world. It is because of such culturally
rich and naturally beautiful places as the Tara landscape that so many
visitors come to Ireland and return again and again. To damage Tara is to
damage Ireland's tourist image and high international reputation.
The commuters of Co Meath need solutions to their traffic problems, but this
is an instance where it is possible to satisfy local needs as well as taking
account of the wider national and international perspective, for there are
other routes available for this motorway and other transport options.
Heritage and culture do not have to be sacrificed for development.
Short-term need and long-term vision can be combined by rerouting the M3
toll-motorway away from the Tara-Skryne valley, perhaps along the route east
of Skryne which was originally favoured by the Government's own consultants,
and remains the preferred option of all the Government's heritage advisers.
With distance the perspective always changes; and perhaps what is unclear in
the detail of the debate in Ireland has greater clarity when viewed from
abroad: a four-lane motorway through the Tara landscape will destroy the
integrity and beauty of a priceless cultural treasure, which expert
archaeologists, historians and Celticists state is a landscape not just of
importance to Ireland but to the whole world.
It is ironic that St Patrick's Day will be celebrated all over the globe,
and the shamrock worn, in the same month as the Irish Government is set to
decide the fate of the Tara landscape. Tara is the place where St Patrick
first used the symbol of the three-leafed shamrock in his teachings to
signify the Divine Trinity. To put a motorway through the grounds of royal
Tara is to deface a national icon, akin to removing a leaf from the emblem
of the shamrock. The landscape of Tara is indivisible and must remain
entirely intact and undisturbed for the appreciation of not just the people
of Ireland, but for all those around the world who cherish Ireland and its
culture. - Yours, etc.,
FIONNUALA DEVLIN, Spokesperson, Protect Tara International Campaign, Berlin,
STIOFAN O'FOGHLU, President, German-Irish Association, Rhine-Main, Germany;
FINOLA KEATING, President of the Geneva Irish Association, Switzerland;
MARY GAVIN, President, Irish Club Netherlands;
FRANK McLYNN, President, German-Irish Association, Bavaria, Germany;
ANN DOUGLAS, President, Irish Club of Belgium;
MARKUS COLLIN, Chairman, Finnish Irish Society, Finland;
ORESTE PERNA, Vice-President, Italian-Irish Intercultural Association;
ROBERT SCOTT-MARTIN, Chairman, Celtic and Irish Cultural Society, England;
NOEL PURCELL, President, Rhine Valley Irish Association, France;
JUERGEN GOTTSCHALK, President, German-Irish Association, Wuerzburg, Germany;
KARL BUXMANN, President, Friedberg Society for the Promotion of German-Irish