Back in May, I reported on how construction of the M3 motorway expansion in Ireland had been halted due to a major archaeological find. The M3 expansion is controversial due to the fact that it runs through the Tara-Skryne Valley, home of the legendary Hill of Tara (the political and spiritual capital of Ireland through most of its history). Currently An Bord Pleanala (the planning board) is deciding if the M3 expansion needs fresh approval in light of the new find, while Environment Minister John Gormley is coming under fire for allowing the site to be “recorded” and removed while these decisions are being made.
“Yesterday TaraWatch called on Environment Minister John Gormley to halt excavation works on the prehistoric ritual site while the board reviews the planning permission. “The minister appears to be acting in bad faith here, by allowing demolition of the national monument to proceed while the board is making its legal determination,” spokesman Vincent Salafia said. “Minister Gormley must stop the demolition by the NRA and Meath County Council now and permit only the excavation of the delicate features now exposed on the surface. “This magnificant prehistoric amphitheatre, which sits in plain view of the hilltop, deserves the highest level of protection possible.” The Department of the Environment has said it does not have the power to alter the route of the road unless a “material change” or new information emerges.”
But activists concerned about the future of Tara haven’t been idle while this bureaucratic wrangling takes place. Protesters have attempted to stall work at the excavation site, have urged the Rolling Stones to back their cause when they stopped to play in Ireland, and Hothouse Flowers frontman Liam O Maonlai has released a song to rally the cause.
“The accomplished musician best known for chart hits ‘Don’t Go’ and ‘Give It Up’ has turned to the genre of the protest song to attack Celtic Tiger Ireland’s relationship with its heritage. In ‘Tara’s Eye (Money Mad Mile)’ the Dubliner who has steeped himself in the Gaelic tradition attacks construction companies and politicians linked to the contentious Co Meath motorway.
Meanwhile government supporters of the M3 expansion are claiming that activist’s fears are over-exaggerated and that the new road won’t impact the ancient monument.
“The National Roads Authority’s (NRA’s) Mary Deevy said she believed the proposed road would not impact on the Tara landscape in Co Meath and was further from the ancient site than the existing carriageway … She added some fears about the future development of the Tara area were legitimate, but said a landscape conservation scheme was being considered by Meath County Council which had been included in the current county development plan. This would restrict the construction of large-scale housing developments and retail outlets.”
But despite reassurances that development would be kept in check, property in Tara near the new motorway is already being auctioned off at hugely inflated rates for residential and commercial development.
“Three parcels of land on Tara Hill are expected to fetch in excess of E1 million when they go under the hammer in Gorey next month. The land, totalling 36.2 acres, will go under the hammer at the auction rooms of Sherry Fitzgerald O’Leary Kinsella in Gorey on September 5.”
While the campaign to stop the motorway is a broad coalition, it has also attracted many Irish Pagans* (as well as Pagans from around the world) who see the construction as a sacrilege.
“…despite claims that the M3 is what the community wants or needs, many folk have been duped and coerced into believing this is necessary. In Egypt, would the remains of an ancient woman of highstatus be left in a plastic bag in a warehouse? Is our ancient culture to be discarded? Much has been written and said about Tara-Skryne Valley being seat of the High Kings of Ireland and the ancient Royal City of Tara. However, one monumental fact remains disregarded. This is the realm of the Gaelic White Mare Goddess, Edain Echraidhe, known also as Rhiannon in Wales and Eponain France. Ireland may now be mainly a country of an Abrahamic tradition but our ancient indigenous spiritual traditions still survive today. Tara-Skryne Valley, realm of Edain Echraidhe, is where the ancient Celtic Festivals are celebrated ritually throughout the year still to this day.”
It remains to be seen if protest efforts, or these archaeological finds will succeed in doing anything more than delaying construction, but it remains certain that modern Pagans with a spiritual, geographical, and emotional connection to the Hill of Tara will be on the front lines of this battle till the end.
* For an interesting examination of Pagan attitudes towards megaliths and archeology, check out this recent essay by Jessica Beck.