The Hill of Tara

Pat Kenny hosted a radio program from the Hill of Tara yesterday. Tara has a huge amount of significance in the mythology and pre-history of Ireland. It was the seat of the Irish high-kings and the archaeological features in the area are extensive and fascinating. Although built on a low ridge overlooking the River Boyne, the views over the Irish midlands are quite spectacular.

Over the past two years, Tara has rarely been far from the headlines because of a proposed motorway (the M3) that will pass near the Hill on its way to Cavan and Fermanagh. From the press coverage of recent years, you would think that the Hill itself was going to be bulldozed away, given the level of public debate on the issue!

The Kenny show yesterday blew the protestors’ case away in an utterly convincing fashion. We discovered that the construction of the motorway had the support of the vast majority of the local population, so much so that it wasn’t even an issue for Co. Meath voters in the last general election. We discovered that most of the protestors (90%) were non-local. We discovered that the current road (the N3) is utterly unable to cope with the volume of commuter traffic. We discovered that the recently discovered Lismullin earthworks, found along the route of the motorway, were nothing special in the context of Irish archaeology. (You can’t throw a stone in this country without hitting an ancient monument of some sort – this country contains up to 60,000 ring forts alone). We discovered that most of the protestors had no role to play in the public consultation phase prior to the final routing decision. The protestors themselves were found wanting when questioned. To me it seemed that their arguments were high on emotion and thin on rationality. Even worse, they had brought along a bunch of yahoos who did nothing to help their case: they continually hooted, insulted and interrupted the speakers from the government / development side.

Supporting the protest case was a nice “hug the stones” little ditty from Liam O’Maonlaí, which had me rushing to find a cigarette lighter so I could swing my arms in unison with the song. A pro-motorway singer couldn’t be found, strangely enough.

It seems to me that the Tara M3 Motorway is perfectly reasonable and logical in the light of a rapidly expanding capital city and a northwest region that badly needs major infrastructural investment to keep up with the rest of the country. The motorway works itself may actually help us to uncover new knowledge about our distant ancestors. Diligent archeological work will be performed on the motorway site throughout the entire development. This is in contrast to the many thousands of monuments cleared away by private developers and farmers all the time with no consultation or discussion. The protestors have (yet again) pointed their ire at the wrong culprits.