Tara latest....

IssueNovember 2007
News by Kat Barton

`Tara is, because of its associations, probably the most consecrated spot in Ireland, and its destruction will leave many bitter memories behind it'. Those were the words of WB Yeats and others in a protest letter to The Times in 1902, when the Hill of Tara was last threatened. Over a century on, it seems little has changed as the Irish government pursues its plans to build a motorway though one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe.

There are already forty known ancient sites in line to be bulldosed, with new ones constantly being unearthed - and destroyed - as the diggers move in. In the latest find, last month, an Iron Age hill fort, a system of ancient fields, ceremonial and burial structures were discovered at Philpotstown.

But these sites are not just of historical and archaeological importance - Tara, which was for centuries the ancient political centre of Ireland, has been the site of some of the great political events that have shaped Irish identity. Probably the most significant occurred back in 1843, when Daniel O'Connell, known as `The Liberator' and one of the greatest Irishmen in history, led an estimated one million people to the Hill of Tara for an enormous rally - arguably the most ardent, peaceful expression in favour of Irish rule, ever, by the Irish people.

All this may be lost on the Irish government but not so on the European Commission which has started legal action against them over the road. The European Environmental Commissioner says that Ireland's National Monuments Act fails to offer enough protection for important archaeological sites and is in contravention of environmental assessment directives.

But there is evidence of hope: in October, Minister John Gormley placed a preservation order on Rath Lugh, an, outpost of Tara and a national monument which will be severely effected by the motorway. Campaigners are calling on the government to halt the destruction of Tara immediately, and for the road to be re-routed. They have also issued an URGENT call-out for supporters to visit the site.