Irish split on road near sacred site

Stephen Beard Jan 2, 2008

Irish split on road near sacred site

Stephen Beard Jan 2, 2008


Doug Krizner: Some of the most sacred ground in Ireland has become the focus of an intense controversy. The Hill of Tara, northwest of Dublin, has been a prehistoric burial place, a pagan sanctuary, and a seat of power for the Irish kings. Now the government is planning to build a four-lane highway through an adjacent valley. Stephen Beard reports on how economic development is threatening the Hill’s sanctity.

Stephen Beard: At dead of night, a group of pagans shuffles around a bonfire on top of the Hill, casting a spell against the new road.

Con Connors, a druid, says the planned highway will desecrate a Celtic deity:

Con Connors: Forcing this road through would primarily destroy the valley that was sacred to the White Mare Goddess.

It won’t just be the noise of traffic and the fumes, he says. An even bigger threat to the Goddess of the White Mare is vibration:

Connors: The actual rumbling and trembling of the earth could cause ultimately the five sacred wells on the Hill of Tara itself . . . for the water table to collapse and for those wells to run dry.

Pagans are not the only protesters against the road. Lawyer Vincent Salafi is one of the many other opponents.

Vincent Salafi: Well, the motorway is passing through an area of outstanding scenic beauty, as well as an area that is choc-a-bloc with archaeological and cultural heritage, both above and below the ground.

Archaeologist: 1 meter 10, 45 . . .

The government agrees this is an archaeological treasure trove. Archaeologists employed by the National Road Authority have sifted through the site, and made an important discovery: the remnants of an Iron Age amphitheatre.

The government’s declared the site a national monument, but that won’t stop the road, says the authority’s Mary Deevy.

Mary Deevy: Although it’s a national monument, that doesn’t mean it’s . . . no one can ever do any research or excavation or work on it.

Beard: Or build a road on top of it?

Deevy: Yes, and in this instance, or build a road on it, yes.

The road is economically essential, she says, to ease the traffic congestion into Dublin. The road will go ahead.

And so will the protest. The pagans accuse the government of sacrificing Ireland’s most sacred landscape on the altar of economic progress.

On the Hill of Tara, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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