New Landscape Guidelines for the Tara Skryne Valley are Meaningless

July 31, 2008

A  project to protect the landscape and improve planning decisions nationally is to be piloted in the Tara Skryne valley, Co Meath. It will be carried out by the Heritage Council in conjunction with Meath County Council, who will develop a landscape management plan and designate a landscape conservation area.

Initial funding of €25,000 is being provided by the Heritage Council and the local authority. Further funding is expected from the Department of the Environment next year. The end cost is expected to be about €125,000.

The project will begin in the autumn and is expected to be completed in 18 to 24 months, by which time the Highway will be completed. It will examine current and potential land use and develop a plan for the area. The project will have community input and will be led by Meath county council. It is unclear what is meant by “community input,” given the Irish Government’s record in implementing its own laws and regulations with regard to developments which it favours.

In Corrib, to give one relevant example, the Department of the Environment has granted permission to the Shell Oil to construct a key section of onshore pipeline without approval from An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.

Shell EP Ireland and its consultants RPS had said earlier this summer that the entire onshore section would be submitted to An Bord Pleanála under the new fast-tracking legislation, apart from two estuary crossings which are regarded as “marine” and come under the Foreshore Act.

However, the Department of the Environment has stated that a high-pressure section at the Glengad landfall which runs under Dooncarton Mountain, location of a 2003 landslide, and across a public beach used by locals and tourists is “exempted” from planning approval under the Planning and Development Act 2000. Clearly, the Government is quite willing to exempt multinational corporations from planning procedures in order to facilitate the opening up of Ireland’s resources to exploitation.

In the Tara / Skryne Valley, the Lismullen Monument, which was a designated National Monument, is to be buried underneath the M3 Highway. The 2004 National Monuments Act grants the Minister for the Environment the right to order a monument’s demolition after an excavation.  Since the Lismullen Monument was undiscovered (according to the official story) until shortly before the offical commencement of works at the Highway, it is a fair bet that there are other monuments, which lie undiscovered around the Tara – Skrene Valley. These will be excavated, and demolished in their turn, to open up the Tara / Skrene Valley to whatever form of development is planned for the valley.

Heritage Council chief executive Michael Starrett described the landscape project as an important step towards the realisation of a national landscape strategy. “Landscape management is about accommodating change and development. It provides a much more holistic approach than the current model, to planning how we manage and develop the landscape where we live. It enables local communities to play an essential role in managing their own area, and has been very successful when introduced in other European countries.”

He said the project was about finding a successful model that could be applied to special landscapes across the State and another pilot was planned for the Burren, details of which will be announced later in the year.Separate studies published last year by the Heritage Council and Fáilte Ireland concluded there was an urgent need for clear guidelines on land use.

The studies also found that Ireland was the only country in Western Europe that had not specifically legislated for managing landscape on a national level. It is unclear whether the Heritage Council scheme will substitute for such legislation, or whether legislation will follow as a result. If there is no legislation, then the Heritage Council guidelines are not legally binding. According to Tarawatch, the Heritage Council recommended in 2002 that a national programme of Landscape Characterisation be undertaken. Draft guidelines prepared by the Department of Environment on landscape characterisation, which would have prevented this entire controversy, have been in circulation since 2000, and are only now being implemented. The essentials of this Tara Management Plan were urged by Mr. Starrett, at the Oireachtas Environment Committee in 2004, long before the public-private partnership contract for the highway was signed, and the decision to build the M3 in the middle of the landscape could have been easily altered. In fact, many of the same protections were already written into the two previous Meath County Development Plans, and have never enforced by Meath County Council. As a result, this announcement is a fine piece of publi relations, without meaning or operative substance.



12 Protesters arrested at Shell Pipeline – an illegal arrest?

July 22, 2008

See news and updates at these pages:

Priest claims Shell has monitored him

July 22, 2008

Excerpt from The Mayo News:

A PARISH PRIEST in north Mayo claims he has been monitored by Shell’s extensive security arrangements at a location where work on the controversial project is ongoing.
The Parish Priest of Kilcommon, Fr Michael Nallen, told The Mayo News yesterday (Monday) that, not only were his parishioners ‘prisoners in their own area’ but that the registration of his car had been noted and, moreover, he believed he had also been photographed by security officials at Ballyglass harbour. However, he also said that he was not suggesting the personnel knew that he was a priest.

More at this page:

Meath Post Evidence: Navan to Dublin Railway Project will Not Go Ahead

July 22, 2008

”The Navan to Dublin railway project looks to be dead in the water after it was revealed that one of two key bridges along the M3 protecting the route is not being built.

Site visits by the Meath Post to both locations at Pace (Dunboyne) and Cannistown (Navan) has revealed that whilst the bridge protecting the railway at Dunboyne is being constructed, the bridge south of Navan is not, and the M3 is now being built directly across the railway alignment.

News of this missing bridge and its impact on the Navan Dublin railway project is likely to be met with anger by Meath’s commuters.

However Iarnród Éireann claim that the NRA have factored in the problem and will build embankments to allow the railway to go ahead.

During the planning process for the M3 in 2003, concerns were raised by Iarnród Éireann that reopening of the Navan Dublin railway would be made too costly if M3 planners were allowed cut the former railway line in two by running the M3 through it without first building a bridge.

Local railway campaigners, using information from Iarnród Éireann, succeeded in obtaining the insertion of two railway bridges in the M3 plans to protect efforts to reopen the railway.

Under order of An Bord Pleanála, Meath County Council drew up plans for one bridge at Dunboyne to protect the former railway line, and another at Cannistown just south of Navan.

As recently as 2006, Meath County Council planning office insisted that both bridge plans remained on file and that the Navan Dublin railway line was being protected.

An Bord Pleanála’s ruling stated that a bridge to allow the railway pass beneath the M3 similar to the Dunboyne bridge should be constructed at Cannistown. The instruction was that unless Iarnród Éireann indicated that they intended following a new rail route for at this section then the bridge as designed should be inserted.

To run the line over the motorway would take an enormous effort and massive cost, with a 26 foot embankment required to run for kilometres on either side of the M3 to allow the railway pass above the motorway.

As late as last month, Iarnród Éireann indicated that this section of the former line was being retained, but the evidence in this photograph shows this has not happened.

Despite this, a spokeswoman told the Meath Post that the NRA are aware of their responsibilities.

“The (the NRA) are going to make provision and embankments will be built that will allow the railway to go ahead”. ”


Meath Post, 12th. July 2008 via SaveTara:

New Parking Charges at Irish Rail Stations could herald privatisation of Rail Network

July 18, 2008

Commuters will be charged €2 a day or a discounted rate of €8 a week. Clamping will be introduced to enforce the new fees. There are 4,500 parking spaces at stations where car parking is provided.

CIÉ says it will gain around €1m from new pay and display parking charges at 37 stations on the greater Dublin rail network.

A spokesman for Irish Rail stated that the revenue it collects from commuters will be reinvested in parking spaces.

Most of the money collected from these will go to CIÉ with servivce provider Nationwide Controlled Parking Systems receiving a percentage for managing the car parks.

The stations affected are on lines from Athlone and Longford including the stations on the Portlaoise and Coolmine Arrow routes, the Dundalk line, the Dart routes, the Arklow and Gorey lines.

Contracting out or competitive tendering. Government departments or enterprises have always used private contractors but the scale of this practice has been radically increased.

A big element of privatisation is the radical extension of the “user pays” principle. State utilities have always charged for the provision of water, power, transport and so on, but both the scale and scope of such charges are being dramatically enlarged. Australians, for example, are now increasingly being charged for their education (in one way or another) and also for the disposal of their sewage; many local councils are nerving themselves to impose charges for withdrawing library books.


Minister Dempsey confirms that road funds will be ‘ringfenced’ as Government Expenditure Cutbacks Announced

July 17, 2008

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey has officially conformed that funds which have previously been allocated for road-building projects has been ringfenced, despite the widespread savings cuts announced by the Government last week as a result of the sudden economic downturn resulting in revised estimates for economic growth.

At the opening yesterday of the new €280 million N6 Kilbeggan- Athlone dual carriageway in Co Westmeath, the Minister said the Government had given a commitment to:

“…finish all the motorways by 2010. That commitment stands and will stand.

“Obviously the economic circumstances have to be taken into account on an annual basis, but we have a programme of works that the National Roads Authority [NRA] has initiated. They have the plans in place and the finances have been made available.”

The NRA claims that motorists travelling between Dublin and Galway will save 45 minutes on due to the opening of the new scheme.

Mr Dempsey made the usual claim that the  completion of the 29km stretch of road on the east-west axis was delivered on budget and on time. It is anticipated that up to 13,000 vehicles a day will use the new route, which has been under construction since May 2006.

The scheme will bypass Kilbeggan, Horseleap and traffic blackspot Moate. It was funded by the Government under the National Development Plan and part-financed by the European Union.

NRA chairman Peter Malone said the additional infrastructure meant drivers could “travel all the way from Dublin to west of Athlone on 114km of continuous motorway or dual carriageway”.

The entire major inter-urban route from Galway to Dublin will be finished by 2010, but will be funded by a toll on the N6 route between Galway and Ballinasloe close to Cappataggle village.

In addition, Minister Dempsey defended the toll system, saying people had an alternative to using tolls and that the money generated was vital for future road projects.

“There is no question of reviewing any toll schemes or reviewing the policy in relation to tolls.”

Westmeath County council cathaoirleach Joe Whelan said the Kilbeggan- Athlone carriageway was another “step in bringing the midlands and the west closer to the capital”.

A  projected current budget surplus (before capital spending is taken into account) of €4.7 billion this year has been revised; it now seems unlikely that there will be a current surplus. It is unlikely that there will be one next year. The tax shortfall is estimated at three billion euro for this year. This will be made up largely from borrowing, though the cuts and savings announced by the Government are expected to save half a billion euro in 2008 and another billion euro in 2009.

The government had intended to spend almost €9 billion on capital expenditure under the National Development Plan in 2009, funded largely by a budget surplus of more than €5 billion. With the disappearing surplus, much of that capital spending is now in doubt.


© 2008 The Irish Times

*Skellig Michael Update* UNESCO Report Finds Dramatic Alteration in Appearance of South Peak remains at Skellig Michael

July 9, 2008

A UNESCO report on State management of the world heritage site at Skellig Michael off the Kerry coast has found that conservation works have “dramatically altered” the appearance of surviving remains on its South Peak.

However, the 6th century monastic outpost will still retain its “outstanding universal values” intact if the conservation work is documented in an academic publication, the Unesco mission report has found.

The report, due to be released today by the Unesco World Heritage Committee in Quebec, Canada, has been welcomed by Minister for the Environment John Gormley. The first 10-year management plan for Skellig Michael is being published today.

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