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New Year Destruction at the Hill of Tara, Ireland

by turoe Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007 at 3:55 PM

In flagrant contempt of best archaeological and ecological practice, a systematic campaign of tree felling, earth clearance and monument removal has begun at the Hill of Tara. This is even before the Public Private Partnership (PPP) contract for the M3 Motorway, through the Tara / Skryne Valley, has even been signed. Daily protests are taking place, every 7am in the morning at the Hill of Tara car park.

The situation at Rath Lugh: Rath Lugh is “owned” by Coillte, the State Forestry Board. Native trees are being systematically felled, even though Rath Lugh is a designated national monument, and strategically placed as part of the defensive fortifications at Tara, on the northern slope of the Skyrne Valley. A new area is being worked just behind Lismullen. There are other wooded areas between Rath Lugh and Blundelstown. It is vital that these be preserved from the vandalism that has already been perpetrated. Coillte is legally obliged to protect national monuments on land in its care. Coillte’s contempt for the archaeological sites on the land it oversees has already been displayed in the case of the Mooghaun hillfort, which has been damaged by Coillte’s planting of conifer trees there. Mooghaun hillfort (Moghane in Irish), located in Co. Clare, is thought to be the largest hillfort in Ireland. Built c.1260-930 B.C., it is situated “on a low hillock in a fairly gently undulating landscape of good agricultural land dotted with many small lakes” Grogan 1993: 39

Coillte is a state body; it is, however, behaving as if it were a private corporation, entitled to dispose of its “property” as it sees fit. Again, Coillte’s record speaks for itself. In March 2001, Coillte approved the sale of 250 acres of land at Bellanaboy, Co Mayo for the Corrib Gas Terminal. In December of 2004 the remaining area of 160 hectares was sold by Coillte to Shell for €2.75 million. Subsequently Coillte granted Shell “wayleave” permission to build a high-pressure raw gas pipeline through 3km of adjacent Coillte land at Aughoose, Co Mayo.

Coillte oversees more than 1.5 million acres on behalf of the State, so the stakes are high.

The situation at Baronstown:

Baronstown lies in the heart of the Tara-Skyrne Valley, and has been described by the Archaeologists who undertook the Discovery Programme survey at Tara as a National Monument. It was however, excluded from the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). There is growing evidence of improper excavation methods by the private archaeological companies overseen by the National Roads Authority. Plastic bags containing bones, lacking numbers or markings, are being found lying in random places. This in itself is proof of inadequate archaeological supervision.

The situation at Collierstown: Again this was noted by the Discovery Programme as being worthy of designation as a National Monument, but was excluded from the EIS. It is a burial site, with many graves of rectangular shape, edged with stone slabs. These appear to be children’s graves.

The situation at Roestown:

Here, a complex of beehive souterrains has been removed. Another has been newly discovered, yet is shortly to be removed. Tree felling has already occurred.

All of this vandalism is possible because the Minister for the Environment has scrapped the heritage protection provisions in Irish law, and substituted an Act granting him the power to issue licenses for unsupervised archaeological excavation of designated sites. Under this convention, a host of licenses have been issued for excavations in the Tara / Skryne Valley. These pictures give an indication of the damage that occurred in 2005:

The diggers move in:

Earth Removal:

The bones of the dead:

More excavator activity:

Topsoil excavations:

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