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13 March 2008 Edition

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The Mary Nelis Column

The destruction of Tara

IT’S NOT every government that is compared by a Nobel Laureate to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan but, indirectly, Seamus Heaney has compared the destruction of Ireland’s most historical site to the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in 2001, an action that shocked the civilised world.
Tara, the ancient site of Ireland’s High Kings, is to be destroyed to make way for a motorway.
The cost to the taxpayers of the destruction of this most Irish and most ancient of sites, the natural heritage of this island, is estimated to be around €850 million and rising. This is at a time when the Taoiseach is forecasting a serious downturn in the economy of the South.
What other country in the world with a dependency on the tourist industry would destroy one of its most important tourist attractions. But that’s precisely what Fianna Fáil and its ‘Green’ partners have decided to do.
The question needs to be asked. Who has given this government the right to destroy the ancient heritage that has belonged to the people of this island for over 4,000 years, as old as the Pyramids?
Can you imagine the government of Egypt destroying the Valley of the Kings, or the English destroying Stonehenge, or the Greeks destroying the Oracle at Delphi? Apart from the fact that they are part of an ancient world that tells us much of the civilisations that lived in those times, the millions of annual visitors to such sites bring in much-needed revenue to the economies of those countries.
Fianna Fáil has argued that we need this motorway to relieve congestion around Dublin, without producing any real evidence to substantiate such a claim. Indeed, it has been proved by the M50 that motorways in fact do the opposite. More cars are brought on to the roads.
The Government could have rerouted this monument to the Celtic Tiger to the west of the valley or provided a rail infrastructure which would cut down carbon emissions.
The M3 is a symptom of the ever-increasing focus on the east of the country. It will only serve to increase the fears of those living in the west and north-west of the island, suffering depopulation and unemployment, that they are being truly sidelined.
The decision to sabotage an official World Heritage site for a motorway that may save commuters 20 minutes off their journey has been condemned by poets and playwrights, academics and archaeologists, and people from every walk of life on this island and all over the world.
But it has been left to the young and the people who make up the Save Tara campaign to take up the torch in defence of our ancient heritage.
They have been threatened and intimidated and some are currently occupying a tunnel directly under the motorway route. They are, in the words of the 1916 Proclamation, campaigning to preserve Tara in the name of this and indeed the dead generations referred to by Seamus Heaney, who stated that if ever a place deserved to be preserved, it is Tara.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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