The Beijing Olympics came to Meath on Friday. Most of the elements seemed to be there, anyway – careful choreography, large packs of politicians roaming around, police keeping all signs of dissent out of sight and over a kilometre away. Even sport (Minister Dempsey vaults the barrier). All it really lacked was a bunch of Green Party TD’s, racing each other for glory down the fast lane. What a wonderful country this is. And what a wonderful road.

On Saturday we published Carmel Diviney’s reaction to the M3 opening and there’s really no need to add anything to such an account (thanks for letting us use it, Carmel), but two statements, that I noticed in the press coverage, are worth commenting on;

(1) Minister for Transport and local TD, Noel Dempsey; “We’re in such an historic county, no matter where you went, you were going to have some difficulties, but the €30m that was spent on archaeological digs, the discoveries that have been found, would never have been found without this route. So I think that on balance this is a positive news story.”

And;

(2) Meath Councillor Nick Killian; “This day is for the people of Meath and not for those under the ground.”
 
Firstly, Mr. Dempsey’s statement. For a minister in a government that so regularly pleads the “systemic importance” of certain parts of the economy (Anglo Irish Bank?) and the necessity to afford them special treatment, this is a surprisingly all-for-one attitude – “such an historic county, no matter where you went, you were going to have some difficulties”. Was Tara not of “systemic importance” to Meath, or to Ireland? What do you think?

Secondly (and again, Mr. Dempsey). While nothing should surprise me at this point, I didn’t expect to read a follower of apocalyptic prophecy. If he is, fair enough (only two years left, though). But if he doesn’t think that the end of time is now upon us, how can he – given the constant improvements in archaeological survey and technique, as well as the fact that this area is important and, therefore, likely to be regularly investigated – possibly say that the likes of Lismullin would “never have been found”? For God’s sake. It didn’t need to be trashed to do it.

Finally, Mr. Killian. We’re all, unfortunately, going to be “under the ground“, some day. Although we can’t live our lives in constant expectation of the event, it’s also important not to forget it, I think. Which of these will seem more important to the generations to come after us? A road, that saved some travel time for people that once lived in Meath (one that could actually have been routed elsewhere)? Or the ancient royal centre of Ireland, complete?

Hmmmmm….

And don’t forget, if enough of these people now in Meath don’t use the bloody thing – toll dodging, taking public transport instead and so on – the taxpayer, uniquely, will have to make up the difference to the company in charge of it. What a wonderful deal that was. Olympian? Apocalyptic, more like.