Motorway near Hill of Tara


Madam, - This may seem nitpicky, but I just wanted to correct a couple of small errors in the article "Heaney claims motorway near Tara desecrates sacred landscape" (March 1st).

In it, Frank McDonald writes "He [ Heaney] recalled that WB Yeats, George Moore and Arthur Griffith had written a letter to The Irish Times complaining that the British Israelites, who thought the Ark of the Covenant was buried at Tara, were desecrating a 'consecrated landscape' by digging there."

The now famous letter was actually published in the Times (London), June 27th, 1902 and was signed by WB Yeats, George Moore and Douglas Hyde.

Griffith was certainly part of the group that campaigned against that rape of Tara, but it was actually the man who was to be the first president of Ireland that signed the letter.

At the time of signing, Douglas Hyde was the president of the Gaelic League, a position he held for 22 years.

Another institution that campaigned vigorously for the preservation of Tara at that time was the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland.

Indeed, their current president, Aideen Ireland, did write a letter to The Irish Times (Letters, May 5th, 2005) stating: "More than 100 years ago this society campaigned vigorously to have ill-considered excavations by the British Israelites on the Hill of Tara stopped.

On that occasion the digging ceased and the site was preserved. It would be a scandal if Tara were now to be sacrificed in the interests of short-term progress."

Heaney claims in the BBC interview that Tara was safer in the hands of the British government, who brought the excavations to a halt in 1903.

Today we can only hope that the EU government, who took legal action against Ireland over the M3, (The Irish Times, October 17th, 2007), can halt the desecration in similar fashion.

As Hyde, Yeats and Moore so aptly wrote in that same letter to the Times, "Tara is, because of its associations, probably the most consecrated spot in Ireland, and its destruction will leave many bitter memories behind." - Yours, etc,


Effra Road,


Dublin 6.

Madam, - Seamus Heaney's attack on the M3's desecration of Tara is welcome, if late.

During Seamus Heaney's writing life, Ireland itself has been debased or desecrated through particular greed and lack of thought.

Given his place in Irish life and since among his themes are Ireland and beauty, it would be good and normal to hear more from him now about this reality. - Yours, etc,


Ormond Quay Upr,

Dublin 6.