[Seamus Heaney reading on the Hill of Tara – 2008]
TARAWATCH – PRESS RELEASE – 1 September 2013
‘How Could We Be Wrong, When Seamus Heaney Said We Were Right?’
Members of TaraWatch wish to pay tribute to Seamus Heaney, and express our deepest thanks to him for speaking out against the construction of the M3 motorway at the Hill of Tara.
Mr Heaney derided the plan in a 2008 BBC radio documentary, called ‘Tar on Tara.’ (below)
He also donated some signed copies of his works for auction, in order to send a representative to the UNESCO Convention in Quebec, 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?’
The European Commission had taken legal action against Ireland in 2007, and called on the Government to halt the works. But Dick Roche, then Minister for the Environment ignored it, as did his successor, John Gormley of the Green Party.
UNESCO refused to intervene in 2008. Later, in 2011, the European Court of Justice ruled that the powers that Fianna Fail had granted itself, under the National Monuments Act 2004, were contrary to EU law, and the Orders given by Dick Roche, for the demolition of national monuments at Tara were indeed illegal.
Mr Salafia said:
“In the end, Seamus was proven right, by the highest court in Europe.
“We hear a lot of apologies coming from Fianna Fail these days, but we have yet to hear one for the ‘desecration’ of Tara, as Seamus put it.
“Perhaps now they might have the decency to admit Seamus was right, and they were wrong.”
Contact: Vincent Salafia 087-132-3365
HEANEY QUOTES FROM THE BBC DOCUMENTARY – ‘TAR ON TARA’
“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 said.
“I was just thinking actually 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.”
“I was reading around recently and I discovered that WB Yeats and George Moore, two writers at the turn of the century and Arthur Griffith, wrote a letter to the Irish Times sometime at the beginning of the last century because a society called the British Israelites had thought that the Arc of the Covenant was buried in Tara, and they had started to dig on Tara Hill.
“And they wrote this letter and they talked about the desecration of a consecrated landscape. So I thought to myself if a few holes in the ground made by amateur archaeologists was a desecration, what is happening to that whole countryside being ripped up is certainly a much more ruthless piece of work.”
“It will be a sort of signal that the priorities on these islands have changed, I mean the Tiger is now lashing its tail and smashing its way through the harp – the strings of the harp are being lashed by the tail of the tiger.”
“Tara means something equivalent to me to what Delphi means to the Greeks or maybe Stonehenge to an English person or Nara in Japan, which is one of the most famous sites in the world.”
“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.”