Archaeologists 'used to destroy heritage'
Archaeologists working on excavations on the controversial M3 motorway feared they would be "sacked, blacklisted or bullied out of their profession" for not supporting the building of the chosen route, it was claimed today.
Speaking at a debate on the motorway near Tara at the sixth World Archaeological Congress (WAC-6) at UCD, Maggie Ronayne, a lecturer at the Department of Archaeology at NUI, Galway, said that pressure was put on site directors and field teams by archaeologists employed by the National Roads Authority (NRA).
"Lip service was paid to archaeology but archaeologists were used to destroy our heritage," said Ms Ronayne.
"From the point of view of archaeology, the route chosen by the NRA was the least desirable and other routes were not properly considered because they were not profitable for developers."
Ms Ronayne, who recently claimed that reports submitted to the NRA had been altered, said that the building of the motorway posed serious ethical questions for archaeologists worldwide. She said she would be asking congress to pass a resolution calling for the re-routing of the M3.
Ms Ronayne also said that the Minister for the Environment's decision to support the nomination of the Hill of Tara as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) world heritage site, given the construction of the motorway, could have serious implications for other sites worldwide and could be to the detriment of the local community.
A number of organisations including the National Roads Authority, campaign group, TaraWatch alongside the Department of the Environment's chief archaeologist, Brian Duffy, spoke at the debate.
While many speakers expressed their opposition to the motorway, it was acknowledged that there had been benefits associated with it, including the discovery of a number of archaeological finds such as the Lismullen monument.
According to Mary Deevy, a senior archaeologist with the NRA, approximately €30 million has been spent on archaeology research related to the Hill of Tara since work began on the motorway.
Defending the chosen route, Ms Deevy said that the route preferred by archaeologists would have had a "massive impact on surrounding communities" with three times as many houses affected.
Discussing the archaeological impact from the building of the motorway, chief archaeologist, Brian Duffy said that it was impossible to consider building a major road anywhere in the country without it having an impact.
Laura Grealish of TaraWatch, called on the congress to pass a resolution demanding a stop to work on the M3 in its present route."
It would send out a very strong message were the congress to do that," said Ms Grealish.
"It wouldn't be legally binding but it would send out a powerful message. I think it would make Ireland the embarrassment of the global archaeological community."
© 2008 ireland.com
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