Hill of Tara and M3 motorway
Madam, - The Hill of Tara constitutes the heart and soul of Ireland. Our ceremonial and mythical capital, its very name invokes the spirit and mystique of our people, and is instantly recognisable worldwide.
An Bord Pleanála's recent approval of the Government's scheme to divide the Tara/Skryne valley with the M3 motorway spells out a massive national and international tragedy that must be averted.
This narrow valley is one of the most culturally and archaeologically significant places in the world. Many monuments predate the Egyptian pyramids. The chamber within Tara's Mound of the Hostages is perfectly aligned with the full moon of Lughnasa and the rising sun of Samhain and Imbolg.
The Hill of Tara has been a sanctuary for every generation since. It is precisely because it has remained intact, unlike many comparable Continental sites, that it holds a special key to understanding the continuous progression of European civilisation.
We are only just beginning to understand and appreciate how the Mound relates to the hundreds of other monuments in this archaeological complex, many of which will be destroyed if the valley is sliced in two.
The Hill of Skryne, containing the 12th-century Skryne Castle, is also a national monument and an early religious and ritual centre. Both Tara and Skryne are part of the same cultural and natural landscape of The Boyne Valley and cannot be separated from the River Boyne, or from each other.
Let us be clear: excavation is destruction, not "preservation" in the true sense. Moreover, serious questions have now been raised in the Dáil as to the standard of "preservation by record", with over 1,500 excavation reports currently missing.
Every effort should be made to preserve national monuments in situ, according to stated Government policy, as well as the Council of Europe's Valetta Convention (The European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage), to which Ireland is a signatory.
The Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, signed by Ireland in Paris, in 1972, resolved to protect parts of the cultural or natural heritage that are of outstanding universal value and therefore need to be preserved as part of the world heritage of mankind as a whole.
Tara warrants UNESCO protection, if ever an Irish site did.
We call on the Government, particularly the Taoiseach, the Minister for Transport and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to review this decision and choose one of the many intelligent options that are still available. These include: improving the existing N3, as per the original advertised scheme; re-opening the Navan-Dublin railway line, which is widely supported in the locality; or simply moving the M3 away from this delicate archaeological landscape.
In the alternative, we ask our public servants to place these viable options before the Irish nation, openly and democratically, and let Irish taxpayers decide for themselves if their money should be spent destroying this singular element of Irish identity. - Yours, etc.,
Dr EDEL BHREATHNACH, Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Institute, University College, Dublin;
FRANCIS JOHN BYRNE, Early Irish Historian;
NICHOLAS CANNY, Department of History, University College, Galway;
MÁIREAD CAREW, Archaeologist and writer;
PROF THOMAS CHARLES-EDWARDS, Faculty of Modern History, Oxford University;
JULITTA CLANCY MBE, Meath Archaeological and Historical Society;
Prof THOMAS OWEN CLANCY, Department of Celtic, University of Glasgow;
Dr HOWARD CLARKE, School of History, University College, Dublin;
Dr MARK CLINTON, Archaeologist and writer;
Prof CHARLIE DOHERTY, Department of History, University College, Dublin;
Dr SEÁN DUFFY, FTCD, Department of History, Trinity College, Dublin;
MÁIRE HERBERT, Department of Old Irish, University College, Cork;
Prof BART JASKI, Celtic Department, University of Utrecht;
Dr RAIMUND KARL, Department of History and Welsh History, University of Wales, Bangor;
Prof MÍCHEÁL MAC CRAITH, Department of Modern Irish, NUI, Galway;
Prof KIM McCONE, Department of Medieval Irish Studies, NUI Maynooth;
Prof NEIL MCLEOD, Murdoch University, Australia;
Prof JOSEPH NAGY, Department of English, University of California, Los Angeles;
Dr MUIREANN NÍ BHROLCHÁIN, Department of Medieval Irish Studies, NUI Maynooth;
Dr MÁIRE NÍ NEACHTAIN, Department of Irish, University of Limerick;
KENNETH NICHOLS, Retired statutory lecturer, University College, Cork;
Prof TOMÁS Ó CATHASAIGH, Irish Studies, Harvard University;
DONNCHADH Ó CORRÁIN, Department of History, University College, Cork;
DÁIBHÍ Ó CRÓINÍN, Department of History, NUI Galway;
VINCENT SALAFIA, Save Tara/Skryne Valley Campaign;
Prof RUAIRI Ó hUIGINN, Department of Modern Irish, NUI Maynooth;
Prof ALFRED SMYTH, Chair of Medieval History, Canterbury University;
PÁDRAIGÍN RIGGS, Department of Modern Irish, University College, Cork;
Dr NANCY STENSON, Department of Linguistics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis;
Rev Dr R. STIEFEL, University of New Hampshire.