by Gordon Kingston, Heritage Action

The Irish Times of 23rd February reports what could be the beginnings of a move away from the development of a port at Bremore;

“A proposed deepwater container port at Bremore in north Co Dublin may be moved farther north to Gormanston, Co Meath, to avoid encroaching on a neolithic complex of passage tombs.

A spokesman for Treasury Holdings, which is planning to develop the new facility in partnership with Drogheda Port, confirmed yesterday that one of the options now being considered was to “shift it off Bremore headland” for archaeological reasons.”

Although “no final decision has been taken”, as of yet and “it is likely to be autumn before a firmer proposal will be put out for consultation.”

How did Drogheda Port and Treasury Holdings, miss the tomb complex, a national monument, in the first place? Pages 28 and 29 of their own “The Strategic Need for a New Port Development” report, prepared for them by John Mangan and Associates, carry a photographic ‘artists impression’ of the proposal, in which the position of the tombs is to be found buried (excuse the pun) underneath a large expanse of busy concrete. This photograph has usefully been added to by An Taisce, to demonstrate the exact impacts, here;

When tackled last year on this topic, the Treasury Ireland managing director, John Bruder, said that the archaeology could be “worked around” and perhaps I wasn’t alone in being unable to imagine an awkward traffic island with a few litter strewn lumps, stuck right in the middle of what was expected to be the biggest port in the country. In fact, a cynic might even suggest that they never intended to put anything at Bremore at all and that it was merely an example of the old government “Ok, so, we won’t hit you with the leaked 10% rise, we’ll make do with the 5% ‘Gormanston’ option instead and you’ll be happy with that, in contrast. Wink.” trick. We’ll never know.

According to the An Taisce submission, linked to above, and only concentrating on the Neolithic complex – the one that is speedily and usefully referred to as “not thought to be as significant as the one located at Bremore” – the Gormanston relocation prospect contains two definite tombs, one, excavated in the 1840’s and now “practically destroyed by sea erosion” and the other, 150m to the west and about 25m in diameter. In addition there are two nearby features which have been suggested to be the remains of passage tombs by Professor Michael Herity. The Irish Times article refers to the fact that the site is “partly covered by an EU-designated special protection area (SPA) for wild birds.”

I might also, and finally, draw attention to the quoted contention, from the Treasury spokesman, that “Ireland needs a deepwater port; the IDA (Industrial Development Authority) is conscious that we are losing projects because we don’t have one.” This does seem an odd statement to make – even though I am in no real position to judge exactly what the IDA might be conscious of – as the Department of Transport’s ‘Indecon’ report concludes that the need for additional port capacity will not be present until 2020-2025 and if the depth of ports was a decisive issue, should surely have noted it.

In the linked article Dr. Mark Clinton, of An Taisce; “queried the need for a new port, noting that throughput at Drogheda Port had fallen by 50 per cent in 2008, according to its most recent set of accounts, while business at Dublin Port was down by 10 per cent.”

“There is no need for a new deepwater port,” he said.