Dispute over effects of M3 work
By - Adam Harvey.
CONSTRUCTION WORK on the M3 motorway will continue at the foot of the ancient Rath Lugh promontory fort near Tara, despite claims from an NUI Galway archaeologist that the work is putting the site at risk.
The National Roads Authority says that a 2,000-year-old circular fortification - declared a national monument - will not be damaged by work to remove part of the hillside on which the fort sits.
"The construction work will not be impacting whatsoever on the declared national monument", said Seán O'Neill, a spokesman for the NRA. "The area of the national monument is being avoided at all costs - the contractors have put up fencing, which the protesters have removed. There wouldn't even be partial impacting on the site", said Mr. O'Neill.
However, Conor Newman, an archaeology lecturer at NUI Galway, says that the motorway will cut open the hillside on which Rath Lugh sits, and a steep cliff will eventually be formed just 20m from the outer wall of the fort.
The entire hill is unstable, he said, as it is built on an esker - a ridge made of small rocks left behind by the glacier that formed the local hills and valleys.
"It's the bed of a river that ran under a glacier", said Mr. Newman, "small round stones held together by sand and silt".
Mr. Newman, and the small group of protesters camped on the side of the esker in the path of the M3, argue that cutting into the esker will inevitably damage Rath Lugh. "The monument is at the top of the esker - you can't divorce one from another", he said.
The protesters have built an elaborate camp on the side of the esker, and they say that they have also dug tunnels into the ground which they will occupy in an attempt to stop or delay construction.
The esker is one of the last obstacles to construction in the Lismullin area. The motorway's path is clear from the side of the esker, as bulldozers have cleared the land on both approaches to the site. A confrontation with protesters is looming as the contractors will need to clear their camp to shore up the esker before work at the site can continue.
Mr. Newman says the fort was one of the original defensive positions protecting the Hill of Tara, and would be one of the first purely military settlements built in Ireland.
"It probably dates from shortly after the birth of Christ", he said.
© The Irish Times, 11th. March 2008.
Posted by moss
11th March 2008ce