Oireachtas committee hearing on M3 motorway

 

Madam, - Tim O'Brien (February 10th) reported a number of false allegations made by members of Fianna Fáil against the Save Tara Skryne Valley group, during an Oireachtas Transport Committee hearing into the Hill of Tara and the M3 motorway.

The chairman, Mr John Ellis TD, accused our group of making allegations against Mr. Frank Dunlop. This is untrue. His name was merely listed as one of many investors in Meath property, close to the M3. The current route appears "immobilised", despite clear evidence that it is wrong. My entire presentation questioned whether these property developments could be contributing to Government reluctance to accept that an error has been made.

Mr Ellis "later referred to "innuendo" which he said was contained in the group's presentation." As noted by Fianna Fáil in the Meath by-election campaign, Mr Dunlop's name radiates its own innuendo. Are we to ignore reports of him in national newspapers?

The article also states that "Mr Salafia explained that the group was concerned it had been 'excluded' from a recent Environment Committee hearing." This is incorrect, as we made a presentation to the Environment Committee. It was the director of the National Museum and the chief State archaeologist that were excluded from that committee, causing us to question whether public money is being squandered on public hearings that have a predetermined outcome.

Mr O'Brien reported that Mr Ellis "also warned the group that it should not make allegations against the clerk and staff of the committee". Our group made absolutely no allegation, express or implied, against any member of the staff. We simply stated that we had submitted 2,000 letters from the public and they had not received responses.

But "this was rejected out of hand by Mr Ellis, who said the committee had received about 200 such letters." I would like once more to "disagree completely" and restate categorically that we hand delivered 2,000 letters from citizens to the Transport Committee office, and were given a receipt. Luckily, photocopies were made and they are being resubmitted. It was Mr Ellis who specifically raised the possibility that there was some error on the part of his own staff when he said "what was being suggested was that essentially letters which were intended for the committee had not been passed on by the staff."

Mr Ellis should apologise for calling into question our integrity and capacity for truthfulness, and falsely accusing us of casting a "slur" on his staff. He should also apologise to the citizens who went to the trouble of completing these letters, in response to his own invitation of December 20th, 2004. Finally, he should also apologise to his staff, for bringing their integrity into question.

The critical issue is whether 1,800 letters from the public have been mislaid, ignored, suppressed or dismissed by the Transport Committee.

Those citizens also deserve a public inquiry into the fate of their submissions, and the workings of both Environment and Transport Committees on the M3.

Mr Ellis and Fianna Fáil members of the committee did not merely prevent Dr Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin from "delving too deeply into archaeological and environmental issues". She was not allowed to even mention the word "archaeology". This makes a mockery of the ongoing public process, which has been necessitated by objections based on "archaeology".

Towards the end of the hearing, Senator David Norris had to intervene to prevent what was "a fusillade of abuse", adding, "it is not appropriate". Ultimately, it is the Irish people that has been, and continues to be, abused by the Transport Committee. Every indication is that the public money being spent on the M3 has very little whatsoever to do with solving "transport" issues. - Yours, etc.,

VINCENT SALAFIA,

Public Relations Officer,

Save Tara Skryne Valley

Group,

Tara,

Co Meath.