Tara landscape and the M3
Madam, - Joe Fenwick (January 29th) rightly points to the the irony of Dick Roche's statement that it would be "unconscionable" not to grant national monument status to 16 Moore Street, in light of the Minister's treatment of the Hill of Tara. It is also important to note that the preservation order for the house "extends to the adjoining terraced buildings at numbers 14, 15, and 17 Moore Street".
According to the Department press release, this was done "in order to ensure the maximum statutory protection is afforded." This approach fits with the expansive legal definition of a national monument which includes "the site of the monument and the means of access thereto and also such portion of land adjoining such site as may be required to fence, cover in, or otherwise preserve from injury the monument or to preserve the amenities thereof."
This principle was clearly evident when the State paid nearly €2 million for 47 acres of land at Glendalough earlier this year. The purchase "was overseen" by Dick Roche, who is a Wicklow TD, and "includes a number of megalithic and bronze age monuments such as the Seven Fonts, a large bullaun stone" (The Irish Times, January 2nd).
Not only did it increase the size of the national monument, but it was the second recent acquisition to add to Wicklow Mountains National Park, the first being 1,600 acres of land at Lugalla late last year.
In contrast, the protection of the equally popular and important Hill of Tara National Monument has been confined to the 100 acres of State-owned land on the summit. Anything outside this is fair game for development. The M3 motorway is passing along the northern contour of the hill itself, closer than the existing road, affecting dozens of sites that are integral to the Tara complex.
One of these national monuments, the massive defensive hill fort of Rath Lugh, which lies in plain view of Tara, was recently reported to have been damaged by M3 construction works (The Irish Times, January 16th). The side of Rath Lugh is being shaved off, but again we are told that statutory protection extends only to the monuments on the top of the hill.
Even if National Monuments legislation were incapable of protecting larger areas of vital national heritage, then creating the Tara or Boyne Valley National Park would be the next logical step for the Minister. Since the PPP contract is not yet signed, it is not too late for him to show he really does have a conscience. - Yours, etc,