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Editorial - November 2004

The M3 motorway through the Tara-Skryne Valley has been in the news this month. The Sunday Tribune newspaper has decided to take up the cause, fronting notables such as actor Stewart Townsend. Townsend's showing on RTE chat show "The Late Late Show" was a bit of a letdown, as he did not seem to know very much about the issue, or about Tara itself for that matter, confining himself to vague statements about the past and ancestors. The Sunday Tribune itself, as was made clear in the 21st November edition, wished it to be understood that opposition to the proposal was not opposition to "progress". Senator Maurice Hayes provided another variation on a common theme, the "balance" that must be struck between infrastructure, as a vital organ of "economic development", and heritage.

Now, it must be made clear that the need for motorways like the M3 has not been demonstrated. What is needed is a coherent transport policy, and the establishment of a National Roads Authority (not, notice, a National Transport Authority) in 1993 was a retrograde step, guaranteeing that not even a pretence would be made to develop Ireland's rail network into a fully integrated transport system, so that a cheap and convenient alternative was available. This would enable people to decide for themselves whether it was in the national interest to build lots of roads: the Government and its paymasters, however, are none too keen on the idea of having people decide things for themselves, which is why any notion of an efficient rail network was relegated permanently to the back burner.

This is not the place to address in any depth whether Ireland is or is not a wealthy country, a statement that in what passes for debate is held as a truism and yet hysterically blazoned on every newspaper and repeated mantra-like in every second news report, as though the facade were in danger of rupture. Yet a UN report recently disclosed that poverty in Ireland exceeds 20%. Ireland also has the highest levels of child poverty in the Western world outside America, which is, in terms of population, among the world's poorest countries. So we have the contradiction that Ireland is fantastically wealthy, yet vast amounts of money need to be given to private contractors to build roads for the benefit of multinational corporations (apart from vast sums - 10 billion per year - to subsidize the rich as a reward for being rich) while basic services are either unavailable or being fattened for privatization. The Government doesn't have any money to provide basic services, yet the country is awash with money.

Meanwhile, the very real issue of whether Ireland's identity should be destroyed to enrich a small number of people is being diluted by the efforts of celebrities and newspapers seeking to increase their circulation. Roads are progress, and opposition to progress is a very bad thing. It doesn't matter in what direction this progress is heading, so long as it is progress. But the M3 will not solve traffic problems, problems that have been created by the very obsession with road building and the twin problem of insensitive development and rezoning mania. The M3 connects to the main Dublin route, the M1, so it will increase traffic volumes onto that already inundated motorway, a project that has itself so far cost several billion, not counting costs for upgrades and maintenance. It will provide revenue for speculators and investors, certainly, and provide more income for those party members who have, or whose friends or family members have, interests in property. Indeed, one might wonder whether the idea of rezoning all that valuable land (heritage be damned) in Co. Meath is the unspoken rationale for the choice of route for the M3.

There has never been a "balance" between economy and heritage, and if anything this has become more and more of a chimera as the development mania has mounted. What is in question are short term interests, driven by aims of personal enrichment and political subservience, and these interests are being allowed to dictate everything that happens in the country. The IMF heads must be gratified indeed to have such enthusiastic sales agents to say (considering the unrelenting media propaganda about how terrible the Irish are at everything, how they rank number one on every Excess List, how culturally inferior they are to the Great Ones) whether that upheaval will come too late to prevent the destruction of Ireland's identity the "free" "trade" zealots are so keen on bringing to completion.

© The Tara Foundation, 2004