TAXPAYERS face paying hundreds of millions of euros if a series of new challenges against the M3 motorway succeed, campaigners warned last night.
Lawyers representing TaraWatch, the anti-M3 protesters who are trying to save the Hill of Tara from the motorway, have lodged a complaint with the United Nations against the State.
This has been lodged with the UN’s Commission on Human Rights on the grounds that building a motorway through such a historic site breaches both the Irish people’s right to enjoy their culture and live in a healthy environment.
Such tactics have proved successful in the past, such as cases taken against the Australian government in the Eighties over inappropriate development on sacred cultural sites.
The UN approach is being backed by poet Séamus Heaney and artists Jim Fitzpatrick and Louis Le Brocquy, who have both donated paintings to be auctioned off to raise funds.
TaraWatch lawyers are also to challenge M3 contractor Ferrovial’s involvement in the UN Global Compact (UGC) – the ethical practices charter the company is signed up to.
A similar challenge took place in 2007, when a Ferrovial motorway-building project through an EU Special Protection Area was halted after a European Court of Justice ruling.
All of the challenges under way by TaraWatch’s legal team, which includes experts from Trinity College and NUI Galway, have previously proved successful in legal challenges to the development of other historic sites around the world.
They are the latest in a series of moves by protesters against the controversial E800m motorway that cuts close to the Hill of Tara, as it runs between Navan and Dunshaughlin in Co. Meath.
Last March, one of the protests saw Lisa ‘Squeak’ Feeney chain herself to an underground tunnel in a bid to stop work on a section of the M3 at Rath Lugh.
TaraWatch Lawyer Vincent Salafia said: ‘This new series of legal challenges stand a very realistic chance of success, especially as this approach has worked elsewhere.
‘It’s not too late for the Government to get the M3 re-routed, and at a relatively low extra cost.
‘But if it perseveres, and Tara gets World Heritage Status, it’s taxpayers who are going to end up having to cover the extra costs involved in a future re-routing.
‘In the UK, the estimated cost of rerouting a road at Stonehenge hit more than E500m.’
Another strand of the bid to save the Hill of Tara is to get it listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The campaigners are urging people to write to Environment Minister John Gormley to ask that Tara be listed.
Mr Salafia said last night: ‘The Hill of Tara complex qualifies for World Heritage status as a natural and cultural landscape of outstanding universal value, due to its unique cultural significance and the extent of the surviving remains.’
If the Hill of Tara is listed, then the M3 could have to be re-routed further from the site.
Ireland signed up to the World Heritage Convention in 1991 and, in doing so, committed itself to protecting and conserving national and international world heritage sites.