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Press Release - Qualifications Of State Archaeologist Questioned
history and heritage |
Wednesday December 07, 2005 00:19 by Muireann Ni Bhrolchain muireann at indigo dot ie 087-9249510
All those involved in the campaign to save Tara are disturbed by the information on Brian Duffy, Chief State Archaeologist, as revealed by Frank McDonald (Irish Times, 5th December, 2005). Disturbed but not particularly surprised. Once again the credentials of a government advisor are questioned and questionable.
Within two months of his appointment Mr Duffy dismissed the evidence for Woodstown as a Viking town as a: ‘speculative notion … with absolutely no archaeological evidence to support it’. He was proven entirely wrong.
On the proposed chosen route of the M3, he advised the Minister to proceed and said that: ‘ the M3 will be a monument of major significance in the future’.
His nine pages of advice to the Minister for the Environment (3rd December 2004) concentrate on the engineering aspect to the near exclusion of archaeology and heritage. He defends the EIS, the An Bord Pleanála Hearing and the chosen route. He does concede that the section between Dunshaughlin and Navan will be ‘costly and time consuming to excavate’. This last remark is a direct contradiction of the NRA’s position that the excavations will only take 12 months. (Meath Chronicle 17.09.05)
He downplays the importance of the Gabhra Valley saying: ‘None of these 38 sites is a National Monument within the meaning of the Act.”
He seems unaware of the fact that a National Monument is not just confined to an archaeological site and of the judgement of Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh in the 1970s where Chief Justice Ó Dálaigh said:
‘The expression ‘national monument’ means a monument or the remains of a monument, the preservation of which, is a matter of national importance by reason of the historical, architectural, traditional, artistic or archaeological interest. A monument, among other things, is anything that by its survival commemorates a person, action or event’.
Mr Duffy and Ms Deevy, the NRA archaeologist, have consistently downplayed the importance of Tara’s landscape – and as if to confirm this, one of the two sites excavated in the area are a post office that still stood there in the 1950s. The bronze age prehistoric mound and burnt pits in the same area have been given little or no attention.
In view of the gravity of this situation and the importance of the archaeological decisions that must be taken within the Department at present, the Government should take immediate action and ensure that the Minister has the best possible academic and professional expert advice available to him.
Dr Muireann Ní Bhrolcháin