The National Roads Authority has stated work is advancing on the M3 motorway in the area close to the Rath Lugh National Monument. Protesters and conservationists have stated that the esker, a glacial ridge, is an integral part of the 2,000-year-old fortification. Construction work on the Rath Lugh section of the M3 has continued regardless, with the north and southbound sections being excavated to foundation level. Crushed stone has been poured into this foundation to allow haulage trucks past Rath Lugh.
Rath Lugh was already the scene of clashes in March 2008. Three people were arrested when protesters tried to stop construction workers from erecting a permanent steel fence between the fort and the proposed route that the motorway will follow. A metal palisade fence was erected between the construction site of the M3, close to the Rath Lugh national monument in Co. Meath, and a camp in which protesters and conservationists were based.
The fence was completed by road-building contractor Eurolink on Saturday, 22nd March.
The NRA says it is putting in place what is known as a ‘box cut’, which outlines the road’s route. It is also building a quib wall and security fencing. It says the steps are being taken for health and safety reasons, and with the advice and consent of the Gardaí.
On Friday 21 March 2008, the Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, of the Green Party, was reported as stating that he could “give a cast-iron assurance” that the national monument at Rath Lugh would not be damaged by building the motorway along the current alignment.” Professor George Eogan * travelled to Rath Lugh with the TaraWatch group, and witnessed the building works there.
“In view of my long association with Tara and its archaeology I can state that Tara consists of an archaeological area, about the same extent in size as the Brugh na Boinne World Heritage Site.” The summit of the Hill of Tara is only a part of the Tara complex in just the same way as Newgrange is only part of the Brugh na Boinne complex.
Tara is…a complex of inter-related monuments that embrace a wider area, which collectively form part of what is understood to be Tara and therefore that everything found in test trenching is/are national monuments.”
Extracts from the Tarawatch interview with Professor George Eogan on site at Rath Lugh National Monument:
“Well I can only use one word, I am horrified. … It is a disastrous situation.
… I had known this site, I was here firstly many, many years ago, and it was a reasonably well preserved site. But now it has been, totally, part of it has now been completely and absolutely destroyed. And what is happening here is one of the greatest shameful acts of cultural vandalism that took place in any part of Europe.
… I was also, to some extent, involved for a while on a Stonehenge Committee, and there the plan was to put a road on the ramp, not overground, and certainly not to destroy what is one of the great monuments of the Tara Complex.”
To date, the list of destroyed monuments in the Tara/Skrene Valley includes: Baronstown, Collierstown cemetery, Roestown, Lismullen National Monument, (now covered over with soil after excavation, only the section of the monument in the path of the motorway was excavated).
Across the 26 counties of Ireland, Archaeologists estimate that in each of the 26 counties between 30 and 40% have been destroyed in the last 150 years, and the figure is sometimes as high as 60%. The monuments which have suffered most are ring forts (homestead settlements which date from 500AD and no longer appear to be protected by traditional beliefs), megalithic tombs (from 4,000BC), and early Christian and medieval churches and castles. Estimates of the number of national monuments in Ireland are in excess of 150,000.
Dr Jonathan Foyle, British chief executive of the World Monuments Fund, which placed Tara on its endangered sites list in 2007, likened the building of the M3 motorway in the Tara / Skrene Valley to the destruction by Afghanistan’s Taliban regime in 2001 of the Bamiyan Buddhas.
* Professor George Eogan:
Professor Eogan’s momentous programme of archaeological work in the Boyne Valley over the course of the last 40 years has transformed archaeological understanding of the passage tombs and the settlement history of the area. As a result, the Boyne Valley was established as a national park and designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. His crucial role in the development of Irish archaeology from the 1960s onwards has received recognition in his appointment to Seanad Éireann, in numerous awards and in membership of bodies such as Academia Europea, the German Archaeological Institute and the Society of Antiquaries, London.
With Thanks to Tara Watch for the Interview with George Eogan.
A Video of the Tarawatch Interview with Professor George Eogan at Rath Lugh can be found at: