by Gordon Kingston, Heritage Action

Almost the ‘end of the road‘, the 90% completed stage, for the construction of the M3 motorway and two Irish Times articles on the subject have been highlighted by Vincent Salafia and Tarawatch.

http://www.tarawatch.org/?p=1332

It has been a long struggle for those who campaigned and protested, with fingers pressed desperately into the dam:

“No protesters are currently blocking or picketing any part of the motorway, and Vincent Salafia of Tarawatch said that such action is unlikely to recur. “The frontline part of the campaign is pretty much over. There are people still protesting in the area, but not on the front line of the road. At this stage any protest on the road would be a largely symbolic gesture, but that doesn’t mean the campaign is over.”

Recent changes to the criminal trespass laws had made such protests more difficult, Mr Salafia said, but he said Tarawatch was continuing to campaign against the road…”

The law, as we have seen before in the 2004 amendment to the National Monuments Act, seems mutable whenever it comes into conflict with construction interests.

The two pieces refer to the greatest foci of controversy as follows:

“…the route runs just over 2km from the Hill of Tara, and adjacent to the Lismullin national monument and the hill fort of Rath Lugh…

…The road does not go through the fort, but skirts it incredibly closely, to the extent that a “crib wall” has been constructed against the fort wall to secure the earthen structure. The road also skirts the national monument at Lismullin. As this site has already been preserved and covered by a farm access road, nothing remains to be seen.”

However, Mr Salafia has made these corrections to the information:

“- the M3 is not 2km away from Tara, but 1km from the crest of the Hill

- the M3 more than ‘skirts’ Lismullin national monument. The NRA demolished the site, despite being warned by the European Commission not to

- Rath Lugh marks the edge of the Tara complex, and the M3 ‘skirts’ inside, rather than outside Rath Lugh, which is also a national monument”

There is a great destructive force in any inundation; whether of concrete, asphalt or water and there should surely be an awareness of the full extent of it in Meath. It’s an easy option to settle the protestors in your mind as a bunch of fanatics, people who could only see the issue in black and white. Then conveniently let it slip away into oblivion. Phrases like ‘skirts closely’, ’2km from the Hill’ and ’preserved’, while indicating that something happened, fail to demonstrate the true level of demolition and hint, perhaps, that there was a bit of an overreaction. Uninformed, knee-jerk opposition to what NRA spokesman Seán O’Neill refers to as “the construction of a new, safe, value for money motorway.”

These monuments were irretrievably damaged, however, in some cases destroyed and for what? The route chosen wasn’t the only possibility, but viable alternatives were dismissed without a second look. In hindsight and given the collapse of the economy, the motorway itself may not even have been necessary. Some people obviously thought so. As has recently been revealed, Eurolink were given a minimum traffic guarantee, which surely indicates  prior consideration, if not expectation, of low usage levels.

Anyone with half an eye on national events will concede that this is a country where the elite are in and out of each others pockets, smoothing their respective ways along. You wouldn’t have to be particularly conspiracy-minded to smell something fishy in the alterations of laws when they prove inconvenient to ’progress’. Or the swift ’about-face’ of the Greens when they arrived in Government. Why was this route and project, opposed by the EU, prominent archaeologists and a significant body of the public, untouchable?

…and how much is it going to end up costing? The more I think about this issue, the more it’s bugging me.

First we have Vincent Salafia:

Mr Salafia has criticised the cost to the taxpayer of the motorway. He said this will amount to €727.4 million over the life of the toll contract with Eurolink, which ends in 2052.”

Swiftly put back in his place by our National Roads Authority spokesman Seán O’Neill:

“In fact only €250 million is being paid up front; the rest of the cost is being borne by the contractor . . . Distorting the figures doesn’t benefit the public…”

However, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General, a presumably impartial authority:

“…the tolled M3 Clonee to Kells motorway, which is due to open next year, will cost taxpayers €727.4m in total over the next 42 years.”

Does the €250 million “up front” not include the cost of maintaining the roads? Is the remainder of the €727.4 million, “borne by the contractor”, “in fact” repayable to them in instalments? How can you get from one figure to the other?

Who, exactly, is doing the distorting in this situation?