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Friday, October 31, 2008

Truth on Tara was buried deep due to culture of lies

N3 road (Ireland)Image via Wikipedia

TaraWatch » ‘Truth on Tara was buried deep due to culture of lies’ - Mail on Sunday
‘Truth on Tara was buried deep due to culture of lies’ - Mail on Sunday

38 sites discovered during test-trenching, on M3 route

My findings on Tara were altered, says archaeologist

Irish Mail on Sunday - 29 June 2008 - By Luke Byrne

A LEADING archaeolgist employed to survey the M3 Tara Valley route has claimed her findings were changed to support the motorway when in fact there was evidence against it. In a devestating attack, Jo Ronayne - who was working for the National Roads Authority - says her findings were altered before being presented to ministers. Miss Ronayne, who was an excavation director at the Tara valley site in Co. Meath, claims she was told to ‘change interpretations’ so as to ‘lessen to potential of numbers of sites’. And she says she was excluded from NRA meetings in which her evidence was altered before reports were passed on to the Government. The damning allegations will shatter the Governments defence that it would not change the Tara route because there is no significant archaeological site on it. And it will lead to disturbing questions about whether ministers - and in turn the public or even the courts - were misled about the archaeological finds.

Miss Ronayne, who was directly employed by NRA subcontractor Irish Archaeological Consultancy Ltd, suggests in an explosive academic article that her role appeared to have been a sham. ‘I didn’t realise that the testing and my reports would be used to facilitate rather than stop the project going ahead. Or that they don’t let you write the truth in the reports or give you enough time to do a proper job,’ she wrote. The archaeologist - whose sister Maggie, an archaeology lecturer in NUI Galway, is due to attend today’s World Archaeological Congress in Dublin - remains utterly disenchanted with how she says her reports were used and portrayed. She said: ‘I held the licence and was responsible for the work, but the NRA archaeologist would come down and tell me what I should be doing. ‘Directors or field archaeologists working on the sites were not allowed to attend meetings where decisions were made by the NRA’s own archaeologists about how to interpret and present what we were finding.’ She added: ‘A number of times I was told to change an interpretation which served to lessen the potential numbers of sites. We were also told to excavate large sections even tough you are not supposed to excavate in the testing phase. ‘They edited our reports before the Minister saw them.’

In May 2005, following preliminary archaeological reports made by the NRA, the then-environment minister Dick Roche sanctioned 38 archaeological excavations in the Tara-Skryne valley in Co. Meath, effectively approving the route. It was reports such as those complied by Miss Ronayne that Mr Roche would have been presented with before he eventually gave his approval for the project. Following the decision to go ahead with the road, Miss Ronayne and a number of archaeologists refused to work on the excavations. Since the route of the M3 was approved, there have been a number of protests aimed at highlighting the archaeological value of the stretch of motorway.

However, the results of initial test-trenching were often highlighted by advocates of the route of the motorway. In March 2005, Frank Cosgrave of the Meath Citizens for the M3 group, told the Joint Committee on Environment and Local Government: ‘Nothing that could be described as a “national monument” has been found. At the same meeting, Cork TD Billy Kelliher said: ‘The argument put forward by the archaeologists with regard to the richness of the area is a bit of a myth.’ Labour Environment spokeswoman Joanna Tuffy said: “If this is true, I think we need to bring in a completely independent archaeological survey to make sure that anything that can be salvaged will be. ‘At this stage we’ve already gone too far so we can’t turn back.’ Miss Tuffy added: ‘This incident is something that I will raise in the Dail.

Truth on Tara was buried deep due to culture of lies
Mail on Sunday - EDITORIAL
29 June 2008

BUILDING a much-needed road ought to be reasonably straightforward. Yet, years after Meath commuters were promised the M3 motorway, the project has been hit by another completely avoidable scandal. The revelation of official interference in the archaeological studies at Tara mean more misery for those stuck in tailbacks, but it is the culture of official deception that poses the gravest questions.

A lot of people have been badly misled. Archaeologists hired for their professional expertise and integrity have not in the words of one, been allowed to ‘write the truth’. Altering independent advice to fit hidden agendas is a dangerous corruption of working of Government in itself, more typical of systematically dishonest regimes than a democratic country like ours. Dail and public debates were based on information that cannot now be trusted. The courts have been asked to make judgments premised, in part, on studies that contain the taint of offical tampering. And a difficult decision whether to put the real needs of the travelling public nover the genuine loss of a part of our patrimony has been subverted by bureaucrats trusted to give us accurate information.

Those responsible cannot be allowed to hide behind behind the monolithic facade of the public sector. This is a dishonest decision with serious consequences. The individuals responsible - who must be known to those who can blow the whistle on their misdeeds - must be held to account. But the culture of dishonesty that makes such flagrant interference possible is harder to root out without clear direction from the very top. This is a Government that routinely plays fast and loose with the accuracy of the information it serves up. Bitter experience has taught the public not to take on trust the official information it receives. Yet the truth will always out. Public confidence in politics is as low as it is because political standards are so low. This sort of deliberate dishonesty needs to be stamped out, with the Taoiseach and the Cabinet setting standards at the top.
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