One of the problems when we look at motorways is that cost is the only factor that seems to matter to those in charge. One cannot measure archaeological finds, heritage, fauna, flora and environmental damage in terms of costs. One cannot compare the cost of a motorway with heritage. They are totally different things. One is priceless, the other can be measured in euro and cent and the cost to the Exchequer in the immediate future.
Nobody is even claiming for one moment that there should not be a motorway or an extremely acceptable alternative to carry the traffic going through Meath. Maybe it should be a railway. Meath is the only area contiguous to Dublin through which no railway runs. Maybe there should be a different route but this is the worst of all worlds.
It is worth reiterating that the National Roads Authority set up its own consultants to produce a report identifying the best and the worst routes in respect of archaeology, built heritage, flora, fauna and habitats, water quality, landscape and visual effects, air quality and noise levels.
In the case of archaeology it recommended the ‘P’ route but we are going on the ‘B’ route. The ‘P’ route has the least effect on the built heritage, and was the preferred option for reasons of flora, fauna and habitats. It made no recommendation on water quality; the ‘P’ route would least affect landscape and visual quality, have the lowest air pollution levels and was the best option for noise levels.
What is the point of the NRA commissioning a report on these particularly sensitive areas, making definitive recommendations and then ignoring them? In other words, these criteria do not matter at all. The oldest trick in the world is to employ an independent consultant who will normally find out what needs to be done and to follow his or her instructions. In this case, the report did not comply with the wishes of those who commissioned it, so it was simply ignored.
Professor George Eogan, one of the world’s leading experts on this area, told me that despite what is stated by the Government and by those who support the particular route, this area is part of the Tara complex. I do not think that anyone will try to deny this anymore. It is part of the traditional Tara complex and it will affect our history and our heritage, yet it is only a three mile stretch.
It would be more expensive to bypass that particular stretch and if that is the reason, then the Government should tell us. It should tell us in straightforward terms that we cannot afford to preserve the heritage which we have at Tara. If that is how members of the Government thinks, then they are Philistines. If they are not Philistines, then they should give other reasons, but they cannot give any environmental reasons because their own report, given by the NRA, finds in favour of another route.
I appeal to the Minister not to take a decision which will destroy a vital part of Irish heritage and which will make a mockery of us in the eyes of those who are committed to environmental heritage throughout the world. I appeal to him to reverse this decision.