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

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