Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Interview of Vincent Salafia: Carrickmines Castle Campaign to Hill of Tara Campaign

In the prior blog post, Vincent Salafia had recounted how he came to live in Ireland. He had just got to the point of telling how he became involved with those trying to preserve the Carrickmine Castle and that he and his supporters won a Supreme Court injunction which held up further construction of the road.

Question: I know the injunction didn’t hold in the long run. What happened?

     That injunction lasted for about a year. Those trying to continue building the road came along with a different legal assault and won a second injunction. Then the government changed the whole national monuments act which included a special provision to put the motorway through the Carrickmines Castle site. A third Supreme Court case was taken, arguing that provision in the act was unconstitutional. There is a constitutional responsibility on the part of government to protect heritage.  In fact, it was established that there was such a constitutional imperative for the first time in Irish history and in fact for the first time in world history that this constitutional imperative did exist. It was said the constitutional imperative did not apply in this particular instance for some technical reason.

     Just around the time that was all coming to a head, we had been hearing about this proposal to build a similar motorway up on the Hill of Tara. I had gotten involved in a couple of disputes with this organization known as An Taisce. Generally a good organization, but the person in charge, him and I had some disputes. They wanted to take over all the legal action and I held it should be carried out by the group that had put the case together.

     To cut a long story short, I said I’m going to head up to Tara, and start up a campaign there. You guys can finish off Carrickmines.

     I went up to Tara in 2003. There had been various local groups who had been participating in the public process where an environmental impact assessment was done.  There was the Meath Archaeological Historical Society, the Meath Road Action Group, various local resident groups. We started having meetings. The Columban Fathers have a big training institution there, right in view of the Hill of Tara. We started having meetings there in the big old buildings. I used to travel up every week at these meetings.

     The residents were reluctant to take a law suit. After about a year of putting on different events and not being able to persuade the politicians to change their mind, I left the group then and went on my own to the High Court to seek an injunction to stop them from doing the test trenching for the motorway.  The judicial review was of the ministers’ decision to grant permission for the test trenching. The archaeological experts had already discovered a huge number of archaeological sites along the pathway of the motorway and a lot of different archaeologists and historians had protested, saying a lot of these sites should be left in situ, rather than being excavated and being preserved by record.

     What happened then, ironically was my case got held up while they awaited the Supreme Court judgment on Carrickmines case determining the constitutionality of the  National Monuments Act. It became a long drawn out process. This went on for years really. In approximately 2004/2005 I went to court. It was 2007 before the case came before full hearing. I lost in the High Court. A really nasty decision, it was. I really got abused by the judge and it was really disheartening because he was clearly quite biased against stopping the motorway proposal.

     My appeal was trending toward the Supreme Court, when An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland, came along. My case had really gotten messed up. The judge had tied it up so tightly in knots, I think it was impossible to win in the Supreme Court. At that point, it was an effort to hold them off as long as possible until something else happened. An Taisce came along and said they’d take the case forward if I agreed to drop mine. I did so, however this gave the authorities the opportunity to sign the contract with the construction company. An Taisce waited too long to go into court so there was a window there for the authorities to get the contract signed and get work underway. There was no injunction in place.  When An Taisce did get into court, they were run out within a day or two and that legal process was all over.

     There were movements in Europe to stop aspects of the construction.   When they started excavating for the road, this new site called Lismullin popped up. It was a previously undetected, unrecorded site which was a huge wooden henge (A henge is a group of standing columns found to be arranged according to the local astronomical events. Stone Henge in England is probably one of the most famous henge). We had experts fly in from the US. Dr. Ron Hicks from Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, was our main protagonist. He helped us do a petition to the world monument fund to place Lismullin on the hundred most endangered sites in the world. We were successful in that and Archaeological magazine came along and said Lismullin was one of the top ten archaeological discoveries in the year 2007.

Next Post: Vincent Salafia: Hill of Tara to Brú na Bóinne

Previous Post: Interview of Vincent Salafia: Family History Up to Carrickmines Castle Campaign

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Interview of Vincent Salafia: Family History Up to Carrickmines Castle Campaign

How can Ireland balance its growth and improvement with the need to preserve its heritage and its environment?

Vincent Salafia has been in the forefront of several important instances in Irleand where many argue there was an imbalance toward growth without proper consideration of heritage and the environment. As we will see in the following interview, Vincent was uniquely equipped by his background in the US and Irish cultures, with his knowledge of the legal heritage, millennia old, in Ireland, and by his own personal commitment to see things done right.

But before we go to the significant instances that have drawn worldwide interest, let’s hear about how Vincent came to live in Ireland.

Question: What is your history with Ireland?

     Brief family history: Our family has had a long tradition of emigrating and returning to Ireland. Starting with my grandmother in the mid-nineteen twenties, she left Ireland.  She was one of ten children. One of the McGees from the Longford area. Her brother was supposed to go to America, but got pleurisy after playing Gaelic football. So the ticket was given to her and she came into the lower east side of Manhattan at 16 years old. She had a tough time working in sweat. She married an Italian-American called James Salafia. They had four children there in the States. She always wanted to return to Ireland. They did pretty well over in the US. He was an electrical engineer and built houses, army bases, and other structures in New Jersey. She moved back to Ireland in 1957, and bought up some property in Wicklow. My mom was put into school and my uncle, who had done a year in Georgetown, was here. There was my mother and her three siblings. Three of them went to university here.

     My mother, when she was in the town of Arklow, she met my father who was an O’Toole. The O’Tooles had this farm across the way. They got married and I came along. They didn’t seem to get along too well, so she ended up going over to England to study to be a nurse. I was raised by my grandmother on the farm down in Wicklow.

     After being raised and going through boarding school, I graduated in 1983. By then my mother had moved back to the States. She was living in upstate New York working as a nurse. She was in the Finger Lakes district, Hammondsport, New York, which is gorgeous country. I visited there a few times. She got married again and they bought a motel in Florida.

     When I headed over in 1983, I landed in Florida. I did a year in High School there to kind of integrate a few areas and sort myself out. I went to Saint Leo College, a small Catholic College, which is about an hour north of Tampa. I had a lovely time there. Studied pre-law political science and also worked as a DJ part time. I took a year off before graduating, went to Pittsburgh, worked as a DJ, came back and graduated.

     Then I went to work in the family business for a while. Then I went up to New York and worked in some law firms to see if that was what I wanted to do. Entertainment law was what I wanted to do.  I went to law school in Fort Lauderdale in 1993 and graduated there in 1996.

     I worked for a while in Florida.

     I got married and moved up to the Indiana area, Carmel, outside Indianapolis. That went well for a while and then not so well. Around 1999 I decided I’d leave America. I’d always wanted to get back to Ireland. Seeing that certain things had come to an end, it would be nice to get a fresh start. I hadn’t seen a whole lot of my grandmother while living in the States, so I’d decided I’d see a lot more of her on this side of the Atlantic. I came back.

Question: When did you return to Ireland?

     The year 2000 is when I started to settle back in. Almost immediately upon my return, I started working on this project called the Brehon Law Project, which I’d started in Florida (Ireland’s own indigenous system of law dating from Celtic times, which survived until the 17th century is known as the Brehon law. Written down in the 7th century AD for the first time, Brehon law was administered by Brehons (or brithem) who served more as arbitrators.) I”d had an amateur type interest in the early Irish legal system. I’d done a paper in an art, literature, and law class. The Internet was just getting started then, so I made up a web site and got in touch with various professors who were working on translating the Brehon laws. I started to put on a series of symposia where I gathered together a lot of different scholars and judges. I did that three years in a row and focused on various aspects of early Irish law.

     During that process I got to know more and more people in Dublin and was fitting back in. I was interested in the O’Toole history as well and part of the reason for studying Brehon law was the tie in with my own family history.  The O’Tooles had been chieftains of Leinster. They had been great warriors against the British in their day. There was the history of Saint Lawrence O’Toole who was the patron saint of Dublin. I studied his involvement going all the way back to the Northern invasion. Strongbow, when he came over, married Aoife of Leinster. She was the daughter of Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster and Mor O’Toole. The marriage was performed by Saint Lawrence O’Toole.

Question: So you really liked that history?

     This history fascinated me. I read in the paper there was a Norman castle, known as Carrickmines Castle, outside of Dublin, being attacked by a motorway proposal for the ring road around Dublin. The Castle had been blown up in 1642, so there wasn’t a whole lot of it left, but the huge defenses around the Castle were being excavated in preparation for the motorway to go through. The motorway had been built up to either side of the Castle by the time these protests broke out. It was the tail end of the excavation. The archaeologists were being rushed out of the site. They were furiously objecting, saying they’d made these important discoveries, the site should be a national landmark, and it shouldn’t be destroyed.

     A bunch of us went in and occupied the castle site. We were called the Carrickminders. I got together a legal team and we proceeded to the High Court (In the Republic of Ireland the highest court is the Supreme Court. The court just below that for civil cases is the High Court). We lost in the High Court but won in the Supreme Court obtaining an injunction which held up the road to the dismay of the Taoiseach and many others (The Taoiseach (pronounced approximately TEE-shock) is the equivalent of a prime minister in the Republic of Ireland).

Next Post: Interview of Vincent Salafia: Carrickmines Castle Campaign to Hill of Tara Campaign

Friday, April 26, 2013

Rhino Heads Stolen

From the Weird News Department: Rhino Heads Stolen From An Irish Museum

Sometimes the global economy has unusual consequences.

Masked men stole four Rhino heads from a storeroom of the Ireland National Museum in Swords, north of Dublin. The masked men tied up a security guard who later freed himself and reported the theft.

The century old horns had been placed in guarded security after a spate of such thefts across Europe in recent years.

Powdered rhino horn is sold at high prices in China and southeast Asia because it is alleged to be an aphrodisiac and to cure cancer. Scientists have found no such properties, which isn't surprising given the horns' content. Rhino horns are made of keratin which is the same major ingredient in skin, hair, nails, claws, and hooves. The fibrous structural proteins in all these items are similar and there is no reason for the proteins to have medicinal or specific interactive value with cellular biochemicals.

However, because of the persistent perception of their medicinal value half a world away from Ireland, the eight horns are suspected by the guardi (police) to have a value of up to $650,000.

Investigators wonder if the heist was conducted by an organized crime gang with links to the County Limerick town of Rathkeale. This group is suspected to have conducted the thefts across Europe.

Obviously this theft has deprived museum visitors of the opportunity to see in person the heads of these powerful beasts to gain an appreciation for their unique size and body form.

Rhinos have been hunted across Asia and Africa near to or into extinction. One of the stolen heads was of the extinct white rhinoceros from Sudan in North Africa.

At least the stolen rhino heads were from animals long dead.

And the thieves may have an issue in that the eight horns (two per head) were coated with arsenic a century ago as a preservative and arsenic has well known poisonous properties.