The privatisation of Irish archaeology and corruption on the road schemes
How the issue of a discussion at WAC 6 on Tara and the M3 arose and an update on the situation.
The issue of a debate on Tara and the M3 at the World Archaeological Congress, which takes place next week in Dublin, arose after Tara campaigners requested that I investigate whether such a discussion could be facilitated at one of the sessions dealing with ethics. I wrote to WAC asking for a session on campaigns against cultural destruction as a counterbalance to the programme as it was, which included several pro-developer, pro-private sector archaeology themes as well as the shocking presence at the congress of the US military.
I requested that in the tradition of WAC, such a session be open to all involved in fighting cultural destruction and suggested a fee waiver for campaigners due to the prohibitive costs of attending.
WAC replied agreeing to include public discussion on the case of Tara and the M3 during the debate in the ethics forum on Thursday 3rd July. Tara was to be one of two cases examined in detail by participants in this forum.
WAC suggested I contact one of the co-organisers of the forum if I wished to be involved myself. I replied repeating my concern that any campaigners could participate if they so wished. I reiterated my request for a fee waiver and also asked, following a request from Tara campaigners, about a crèche so that those who are normally excluded, like campaigners who are the mothers of young children, could participate. There was no response.
Later I wrote to the session organizer to whom WAC had referred me, and received an email which included the following:
‘…the format of the session is not a debate, nor is it even going to be specifically about the cases that the ethics forum participants studied in preparation. We've revised the format of the forum in response to dialogues with stakeholders, members of the WAC Executive and the WAC Committee on Ethics, as well as in relation to what information would be most beneficial to WAC. With that in mind, our forum will be a panel presentation/discussion of recommendations to give to WAC on considering ethical cases in general, so that future cases can be avoided/prevented/considered in constructive/non-painful ways.
Our forum participants did study two real cases studies in preparation for this, but the public panel will be process-oriented and future-focused… in shifting the public panel format off of the specific cases, we hope to maintain our focus on this process, minimize further pain for stakeholders, and also avoid our participants and the forum itself from being pigeonholed politically as "for" or "against" a particular issue…’
Following subsequent confusion on whether there would still be a discussion on Tara at this forum, my department sought clarification from this session organizer and was told in a second email that:
‘…We will not be detailing the specifics of either case we studied. As I've attempted to explain in both emails (to you and Vincent [Salafia]), our process-driven and future-oriented recommendations are *informed by* the case studies our participants have been studying, but the public forum will not be focused or commenting *directly* on those… specific stakeholders were contacted by us earlier to submit to the participants position statements that would be taken into consideration along with the published material on the case studies we chose… there was (and still is) a process in place for which we were gathering direct statements from interested parties - that's just not the focus of our public forum (we have never wanted the forum to be a soapbox for any side of any of the issues)…’
She added that the ‘stakeholders’ selected by WAC for this pre-congress study and who submitted documentation included the NRA. We understand that UCD is now telling journalists there will be discussion of Tara in some sessions though there’s no information on the format or level of participation. So we don’t know if there will be substantive discussion– it’s anyone’s guess.
Whatever the case may be, most of those who have spent years trying to oppose destruction at Tara will not be able to participate. WAC chose which grouping in the movement it wanted to participate and by means of this action, the prohibitively expensive entry fee and emails such as those above, WAC appear to have effectively closed the discussion down. said to other campaigners, to archaeologists opposed to the motorway or whose field, like in my own case, is professional ethics and active opposition to cultural destruction: you can’t speak. The campaigner they have chosen to participate in the debate credited WAC for organising a Tara/M3 discussion rather than those who insisted on such a discussion.
Meanwhile the article published in the academic journal Public Archaeology to coincide with the World Archaeological Congress in Dublin is circulating. It discusses the privatization of archaeology, corrupt development and the movement against it, looking at the case of Tara and the M3 in particular. It can be found at the link below.
As it says at the end of the article, 'if privatized archaeology in the service of corrupt development is adopted as the model globally, it will be used in the Third World to cause the deaths of millions of people in wars and US-backed ‘democracy and development’ projects... Already there is an attempt to use WAC to approve a global, privatised archaeology modelled on recent development in Ireland.'