Lecturer – Environmental Legislation | Planning & Risk Management

Vincent Salafia, B.A., J.D., LL.M. (TCD)  – Lecturer in Environmental Legislation and Planning and Risk Management in the Management School – Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) – part of the MSc in Environmental Management program (2009-2013). Member of the Irish Association of Law Teachers (IALT). He was a founder of TaraWatch, that campaigned against the M3 motorway at the Hill of Tara, and is currently a spokesman for Save Newgrange, that successfully challenged the routing of the Slane bypass near the  Brú na Bóinne UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012.

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Evening Herald: Tomb discovery sparks ‘national monument’ calls (please sign the petition)

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Tomb discovery sparks ‘national monument’ calls

The Evening Herald | 10 September 2013

ARCHAEOLOGISTS who discovered a new passage tomb near Newgrange want it declared a national monument. Using light detection and ranging imaging known as LiDAR, an underground passageway and several other previously detected features have been discovered near the river Boyne, Co. Meath, on private land southwest of Newgrange. The LiDAR imagery showed a mound with a circular enclosure, with further work involving new technologies, known as magnetic radiometry and resisitivity, unveiled a definite passage, leading northeast out of the tomb.

It is the first discovery to be made without any archaeological digging, instead being found through use of LiDAR and “other ground-probing techniques.” The archaeologists who made the discovery, led by Kevin barton, are calling on the Minister for Heritage, Jimmy Deenihan, to declare the site a national monument. Because the new monument is on private land, the team of archaeologists need the Minister to do this as without Government designations, an excavation would be impossible. In order to fully understand the results of the LiDAR study, which was performed in and around the Bru na Boinne UNESCO Heritage site, archaeologists feel a fully comprehensive excavation would be necessary.

Activist group ‘Save Newgrange‘ are backing the request to the minister as well as requesting that Meath County Council include the findings in the Management Pan for the World Heritage Site. Vincent Salafia, spokesperson with Save Newgrange says that there is an obligation to allow the excavation of the site, as well as a council obligation to include findings in the management plan.

“With this exciting discovery, the onus is on the Minister to obey the UNESCO World Heritage Convention and fully protect the site. The State is under a duty to fully investigate the entire World Heritage Site, and to give the monuments the highest legal protection possible, which is national monument designation under the National Monuments Act,” he said.

The results of a full scale excavation could lead to an expansion of Newgrange and could halt any further plans for the N2 bypass of the site, which would be critical if there were more request from local council to build the motorway. In 2012, An Bord Pleanala refused an application for the bypass because of the proximity to to the monument. Local politicians, however, are still hoping to procure a bypass rather than the current HGV ban that is in place.

SIGN THE PETITION TO MINISTER DENIHAN

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Meath Chronicle: ‘Tara Watch group pays tribute to poet Heaney’ & other interesting stories

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I0000.JDZUwHOOYAThe Meath Chronicle has a number of interesting items relating to the Hill of Tara and the M3 motorway, this week, as well as other reports on significant new archaeological discoveries at Brú na Bóinne, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Hill of Loyd, which lies near Kells, at the northern end of the M3 motorway. Most surprisingly, it features an editorial by the conservative Paul Murphy, that basically admits that Seamus Heaney was right, and the M3 that is now a ‘white elephant’ and was not worth ‘desecrating’ Tara for.

LP2-LiDAR-colourMoving through the paper there is ‘Ground radar uncovers a new monument close to Newgrange’ on page 2.  It states “the first passage-tomb to be discovered in the Boyne Valley in 200 years has been identified by archaeologists using the new sophisticated imaging techniques.” It relates to a new ‘passage-tomb’ that lies on the flood plain of the Boyne, southwest of Newgrange.

LP2-Location-map-Lidar Mythical Ireland does a good story on the find, near Newgrange. This is very relevant to efforts to protect the complex from the Slane bypass, which is still under consideration. (The image above, from their site shows a close-up of it, and the image to the right shows its location, with the red circle. Clearly the extent of the complex has yet to be finally determined, adding more evidence against arguments in favour of a dual carriageway, 500 metres from the UNESCO buffer zone.)

mound-of-hostages-under-constructionNext on page 4, ‘Conservation of Tara’s Mound of the Hostages now completed’, says that the Office of Public Works has confirmed that the protective railings will be removed from around the Mound of the Hostages, as conservation work is completed.  The tragic/comic aspect to the story, however, is that it features a picture of Cllr. Shane Cassells of Fianna Fail, standing in front of the monument and being quoted from 2012 when he “warned that the ‘rawness’ of Tara would be lost if people were kept away from the Hill itself and that it would lead to an ‘Americanising’ of the monument if a series of viewing platforms were erected from which people could view it.” This is the same Councillor that argued in favour of the M3 (American style) motorway along the side of the Hill of Tara in 2005, and voted to rezone land, in material contravention of the Meath County Development Plan, in Batterstown, very close to Tara, in 2009. The image to the left shows the reconstruction under way in 2012.

kellsNext on page 11 Major Iron Age fort found at Hill of Loyd says: “A circular fort 100 metres in diameter on the top of the Hill of Loyd, which would have dominated the skyline of ancient Kells, has been discovered by archaeologists from the Discovery Programme – Iron Age and Roman Project. Archaeologist Dr Ger Dowling said the site would have been a significant structure from 1,000 B.C. to 500 A.D. Dr. Dowling said “people at the site would have been people coming from the north and west to Bregga – the Tara complex.” It is very significant that he referred to the Tara complex, as this was the core argument of opponents to the M3, while many archaeologists tried to limit the monument to the top of the hill itself. He also said “that when works were taking place on the M3 bypass a number of burial monuments were also found,” which “indicated that something must have been happening on the top” of the Hill of Loyd, “and this is where we found this enclosure.” The tower image above is present day Hill of Loyd, Kells, where a ‘heritage park‘ is now proposed.

headergDespite the obvious relationship between both the Hill of Tara and Hill of Loyd enclosures with the surrounding burials, the archaeologists saw, and still see, no problem with building the M3 and the bypass in the midst of these archaeological  ‘complexes’. Instead, there are the 2003 and other excavation reports of “no archaeological significance” relating to these and dozens of other burials within the two complexes that were bulldozed and desecrated.

On page 12 there is a story ‘Tara Watch group pays tribute to poet Heaney’, (below) and and Editorial on page 22, entitled ‘Elements of the human condition laid bare for all to see‘, (also below) discussing Heaney’s intervention in to the Tara/M3 controversy, by Paul Murphy. He quotes me as saying “How could we be wrong when Seamus said we were right?” Surprisingly, he then says, “I remain to be convinced that the motorway is not an expensive white elephant and that it will take another ‘boom’ to get the burden of payment for these 60-odd kilometres off the taxpayers’ back.”

DSCF1725He contrasts the death of Seamus Heaney with other headlines of the week. “There is a further sharp division in human dilemmas posed for other people in the headlines. To make it clear form the beginning, solicitor Michael Lynn is a fugitive from justice in Ireland. Former Government Minister Ivan Yates and current Minister of State John perry are not fugitives from justice but collateral damage from the aforesaid ‘boom’. (The image on the right shows Seamus on the Hill of Tara in 2008, before a reading there.) Ironically, I passed Ivan the other day, who walking into the Dart railway station on Pearse Street, while talking to someone on his mobile phone about losing his home. He gave me a knowing, forlorn nod and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. We are, after all, still just human.

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‘Tara Watch group pays tribute to poet Heaney’

The Meath Chronicle –  Saturday, 7 September 2013 

heanytaraI0000XgYj9oqxNcMMEMBERS of TaraWatch, the organisation that campaigned against the construction of the M3 motorway, have paid tribute to poet Seamus Heaney whose funeral took place on Monday. They expressed their deepest thanks to him for “bravely speaking out against the construction of the M3 motorway at the Hill of Tara.” The organisation recalled that the poet had derided the plan in a 2008 BBC radio documentary called ‘Tara on Tara’. He also donated signed copies of his works for auction in order to send a representative to a UNESCO Convention in Quebec, Canada, to make the case for Tara’s preservation.  Vincent Salafia of TaraWatch said: “At our darkest hour, when all seemed lost, Seamus came along and lifted us up again. We said to ourselves, ‘How could we be wrong, when Seamus says we’re right?’”

I0000.KB2EDtn8fYIn the BBC documentary, ‘Tar on Tara’, Heaney said: “I think it literally desecrates an area – I mean the word means to de-sacralise and for centuries the Tara landscape and the Tara sites have been regarded as part of the sacred ground.”  He went on: “I was just thinking actually how the Proclamation of the Irish Republic in 1916 summoned people in the name of the dead generations and called the nation, called the people in the name of the dead generations. If ever there was a place that deserved to be preserved in the name of the dead generations from pre-historic times up to historic times up to completely recently, it was Tara.”

I0000LVHLM_snzAUHe went on: “It’s a word that conjures an aura – it conjures up what they call in Irish dúchas, a sense of belonging, a sense of patrimony, a sense of an ideal, an ideal of the spirit if you like, that belongs in the place and if anywhere in Ireland conjures that up – it’s Tara – it’s a mythical site of course. I mean the traces on Tara are in the grass, are in the earth – they aren’t spectacular like temple ruins would be in the Parthenon in Greece but they are about origin, they’re about beginning, they’re about the mythological, spiritual source – a source and a guarantee of something old in the country and something that gives the country its distinctive spirit.”

‘Elements off the human condition laid bare for all to see’

The Meath Chronicle -  Saturday, 7 September 2013 

Viewpoint | By Paul Murphy

I0000RFCk5nH7z34A glance at the news columns of Tuesday’s newspapers might easily produce a tentative title for a film ‘Two politicians, a solicitor and a funeral’, all aptly encompassing elements of the twists and turns of life. Poet Seamus Heaney’s death, of course, has dominated news coverage in the past several days and his contribution to a controversy in County Meath during the building of the M3 motorway was also remembered this week. His intervention is certainly remembered by the relative handful of people who stood against what he had described as the ‘desecration’ of the Tara landscape.

I0000v9KtII_Hm5kThe Hill of Tara was safer under British rule than the present Irish government, he said. While the government of the day described the motorway as a vital piece of infrastructure, Heaney saw the building of the road near the ancient site as ‘a betrayal of Ireland’s dead generations.”  In the heat of the argument of the time, it was difficult for the anti-motorway protesters to get over a message that the money could be spent elsewhere with less potential damage to the Tara landscape. Three years after the completion of the motorway, we can easily ask the question and get the answer that €1 billion might have been better used on a project that would have given better benefit to the country.

I0000566suzxRyOII remain unconvinced that the motorway is not an expensive white elephant and that it will take another ‘boom’ to get the burden of the payment for those 60-odd kilometres off the taxpayers’ back. Heaney threw his considerable intellectual weight behind the protesters. As one of their leaders, Vincent Salafia, said this week: “How could we be wrong, when Seamus said we were right? At our darkest hour, Seamus came along and lifted us up again.”

michaelynThere is a further sharp division in human dilemmas posed for other people in the headlines. To make it clear form the beginning, solicitor Michael Lynn is a fugitive from justice in Ireland. Former Government Minister Ivan Yates and current Minister of State John perry are not fugitives from justice but collateral damage from the aforesaid ‘boom’. Michael Lynn is sitting in a cell in a prison near Reclife, Brazil, from where he will mount a vigorous legal action to prevent his extradition to Ireland where is likely to face fraud charges. As he awaits any further move, he is about to attempt to wave his university degree about in hope of securing himself a better place in a special unit in the overcrowded prison. Of course, that is as much a comment on the system of buying privilege in Brazilian prison as it is on Lynn’s actions.

Patrick J Browne PhotographyWhile Ivan Yates has had a pretty difficult time in Wales where he was awaiting discharge from bankruptcy, describing how he whiled away the boring days by seeking comfort in early opening pubs, he is probably no different than most Irish people who have been bashed against the sea walls by the storm forces unleashed in the wake of the Celtic Tiger. He sought bankruptsy in the UK last year after his legal advisors told him that it would not be possible to reach agreement with AIB over debts incurred by the collapse of his Celtic Bookmakers company. While AIB issued a bland statement to the effect that it negotiated in good faith to try to reach an agreement with Yates, the ordinary man or woman in the street might well ask why it did not accept a settlement that would have offered it up to 86 cent in the euro on its debts and might have netted it considerably more than it now stands to make.

Minister-John-PerryJohn Perry has reached an agreement with Danske Bank to restructure his €2.47 million debt. His personal affairs may have been cleaned up to a degree but his political stock is low, despite Taoiseach Enda Kenney’s backing. He is someone who has been negotiating with Danske Bank since January 2012, a year after he took office as junior minister. At the same time, he gave the banks quite a kicking in his public statements. It might be a time for him to reconsider his political position.

Letters to the editor can be sent to ken@meathchronicle.ie

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