Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Vincent Salafia: Cultural Heritage to Constitutional Protection of Heritage

In the last blog entry, Vincent had just described some of the positive aspects of the campaigns over preservation of heritage.

Question: Will cultural tourism catch on?

I think there will be more cultural tourism rather than straight economic tourism. I do see a lot of potential now in the people who have been turned on abroad and those here at home as well. I think the local population up in Meath realizes more now that they do have something of value that they didn’t fully appreciate before. I was talking to someone who loves fairies, like Tinkerbell. There is a Florida Fairy Festival every year. So I was thinking, why don’t they have a Fairy Festival on the Hill of Tara every year?  It would bring large crowds. People would have fun outside. People would bring their kids. I think you will see more utilization of these sites and the sites will come to life.

Question: Is changing the Constitution feasible in Ireland?

As to the Constitution, there is a Constitutional Convention set up to review the constitution. When the present government officials were running for office, their parties, Labor and Fine Gael came in and said there was going to be a Constitutional Convention. That process is beginning. The terms of reference are quite narrow and many are cynical about it. But none the less, there is a period over the next year to raise issues. There should be constitutional protections put in place to protect heritage and the environment, and for our culture, really.

People abroad have the right to have these things protected as part of their own culture. This would not just protect Irish citizens, but all people of Irish decent. That’s why it’s important for those of Irish decent to express those opinions, especially during the coming year.  I’ll try to get clear ideas and explanation up on the Internet and into print so that people can demand their constitutional and human rights.

“We the undersigned were outraged about what happened at Tara and what was proposed at Slane without due consideration. We want to be sure as Irish people that this is never going to happen again. Let’s put the necessary protections into the constitution, once and for all.”

Maybe a petition like that could happen in the coming months.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Vincent Salafia: Benefits of Archaeology to Achievements

In the prior blog entry, Vincent had just described how the lure of money and employment had turned many archaeologists against heritage preservation.

Question: Can the public be educated and turned on to what the benefits of studying archaeology are?

I think the public have been turned on. There have been various surveys performed by the Heritage Council over the years starting back around 2000. Every year there was public concern for protection of heritage and protection of the environment. It wasn’t that the public didn’t care so much. It was more that the authorities didn’t care so much because they were so hell bent on perpetuating this model of modernism, economic development, and real estate.  They saw that as their meal ticket. It wasn’t the public that was the problem. It was the government. One can say the people were electing the government, but they were electing them for different reasons than cultural heritage. Ultimately, the public bought into the economic thing as well.

Now that we are in the post crisis mode here, there is a realization by both the government and the public that we should be taking better care of our tourist attractions. Again there is this idea we could get some money out of these sites. This idea of “the Gathering” now, which was launched by the government on January 1st of this year to bring all the Irish home, if you will. There are some cynical views of this as well. An American actor came out and said this is a big joke. You are just fleecing these people. All you want is a few quid out of them after ignoring them for years. Thousands of Irish people died on the streets in London and nothing was done. Even when Irish people did come back to Ireland during the Celtic Tiger years, those people weren’t eligible for social services. They were told you are not an Irish resident, or an EU resident. They were told they were not eligible to student grants or unemployment.  You really weren’t welcome at all. That’s all changing and the Irish authorities are anxious to get any Irish American or any Irish Australian to come back.

There is a different view over here, but I’m still a bit cynical about it. The first economic cuts (in the Great Recession) were in the area of environment and heritage. A lot of the cultural centers and historical centers have shut down.

I suppose on the bright side, not just the government sponsored destruction of heritage, the private sector was doing a lot of damage too. At least, that’s all come to a halt if you will. The impact to the atmosphere leading to climate change has been reduced.  There are some positives. Unfortunately, traffic on the M3 is way, way down and we’re having to pay the investors, this Spanish company, now direct payments. Millions and millions of euros are being paid to keep the M3 going.

One of the real positive things that came out of this, even though it’s been a tough haul, has been to meet people like you and many others. I met great people along the way. I didn’t do any of this alone. It was inspiring to see the international support that we got from all around the world, in particular the US. Lots of people said this is just wrong. So many people were willing to do something about it. That made it a success. Even though the M3 went ahead where it shouldn’t have, and it was heart breaking to see it go ahead, ultimately you have to say to yourself that campaigning is to make an issue out of something, to put it into the public mind, and to give the public an opportunity to express their opinions about it. Clearly, the public had been ignored up until then. We showed quite clearly that the majority of people were against the selected route. We can rest and say we did our best.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Vincent Salafia: Sustainable Development to Archaeologists

In the prior blog entry, Vincent had just explained his PhD thesis will put forward the concept that sustainable development should be constitutionalized here in Ireland.

Question: What would sustainable development accomplish?

There would be a constitutional implementation of social rights, economic rights, and environmental rights. Hopefully, that constitutional equation would prevent these types of things from happening again.

You and I had worked on the economic issues having to do with the toll roads on the M3 (I had contributed some economic analyses which showed the questions the government should have asked about the deal before it was struck). Maybe in hind sight the economic issues were a lot more important than people realized in the course of the campaigning where everybody was so focused on the heritage end of things that the economic issues didn’t lend themselves so easily to protesting and people getting excited. There were no grounds to go in and make economic complaints back then. People need to be given their economic rights to say that public money needs to be spent in a rational way.

I am trying to pull everything together that I’ve been involved in over the last ten years or so. It is really a formula and I am trying to get it into a few articles or a book.

Question: Is there a recognition among politicians and other decision makers that the economics of a road should be a factor? Should the government shoulder all the risk? Ireland is paying foreign investors for a road, the M3, that is underutilized.

On the M3, they didn’t tell the public if it was going to be a toll road. They said it could be a toll road. They got the contract in the public/private partnership to build the road. However, one of the complaints was made that the traffic numbers didn’t add up, they didn’t justify this road in the first place. With all these motorways going north, it was pretty clear that was correct. They realized it would be a looser for any company getting involved, and they wouldn’t be able to charge enough tolls to make it pay for itself. So what the government did without telling anyone was they went out to the EU and got special permission from the European Commission to allow them to sign a shadow tolling clause into the contract. Normally they wouldn’t be able to do that, because it would be seen as impermissible state aid under the European Union economic rules.

They were given permission to do this in the instance of the M3. Also the Liber Tunnel was the only other road they got permission to do this. They said this road was so necessary there was no alternative to building this road. They said they probably wouldn’t need the tolls anyway because things were growing at such a rapid rate here in Ireland, there would be enough traffic to support the road. They created the impression this shadow toll clause would never be used.

No sooner had they signed that contract than things started to fall apart in the economic realm. Now it’s seen to be one of the worst economic decisions ever. Going all the way back to 2000, the roads program in Ireland was supposed to cost 5 billion euros. We can’t get an exact figure from the government as to how much the roads cost, but we figure they have cost somewhere in the region of 30 to 35 billion. So you see how much money disappeared into the ether.  Now we can see a lot of these roads weren’t necessary at all.

It’s gone from one extreme to the other. Back then, they were building roads everywhere, and now, there is no road building at all. There isn’t much sense in asking the present government what they think of building roads, they haven’t had much opportunity to think about that. Of course, with the troika breathing down their necks, they are not going to be making any radical decisions. The biggest decision was seen to be the withdrawal of the 500 million from the northern end of the M2/A5 road, the Dublin to Derry road. It’s going to be a while before they propose to build new roads. They don’t really need many.  Even though they were supposed to get these new roads done by 2005, they did manage to get most of them by 2008 or 2009.

That is really the end of road building for the time being, and ironically, that also is the end of a lot of archaeology jobs as well.

People want to point a finger at what happened over here. Certainly the archaeologists deserve their share of the blame. They weren’t all bad, of course. The guy at Carrickmines, Dr. Mark Clinton was good. We did have some archaeologists working for us behind the scenes, but for the most part they were willing to go and dig up anything. It could have been Cú Chulainn’s tomb. In fact they would have been dying to get in there.  There was just no stopping those guys. Ethics appeared to go out the window. I’m not sure how sorry I am to see a lot of them out of work now.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Vincent Salafia: Teaching to Making Sustainable Development Constitutional

In the last blog entry, Vincent had just begun explaining how he started teaching at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Question: How did things go after you taught that first class?

Then they offered me a second class in planning and risk assessment, which is a bit more specific and more into the area of impact assessment. I was nervous teaching my first class up there, never having teaching experience. It was at the end of this first class I was teaching that this Slane Bypass issue sprang up. I was able to use the issue as a class project which showed how these things work in the real world. It worked out really well in both directions. Some of the students got involved in some of the campaign issues and certainly some of their research and work came in handy. I think they enjoyed having the opportunity to deal with some real world issues. I sort of carried on that tradition. The north-south connection and the larger issues to do with the road made it an ideal topic to deal with because, when I first went up to Queens University, of the 30 students, 15 would have been from the south and 15 would have been from the north. It was a good coming together type of issue.  Although the southern end of that road has come to a grinding halt as a result of the An Bord Planela decision, and the south also withdrew the 500 million euro commitment to building the northern end, the northern authorities have pushed ahead with the A5 upgrade up there. A group of local residents I’ve had into my class at Queens called the A5 Alternative Alliance just went into court before Christmas 2012 and initiated judicial review with the high court for the planning approval of the A5 up there.  Everybody is waiting to see what will happen to that up there with the north.

Question: What is your next act?

During the course of all this, I had to ask myself some of the bigger questions such as why am I doing all this stuff? What does it all mean? What is the bigger picture here?

During the course of my studies along with campaigning, I learned more about this concept of sustainable development and how it fits in with indigenous rights and indigenous culture, which are obviously Brehon law concepts, and how it fits in with environmental protection and heritage protection. I also learned to look at where does economics come into this?

Sustainable development is a way that ties it all together in a positive way.

During these earlier campaigns, we were operating in this property bubble and development frenzy that ended up collapsing here in Ireland, quite dramatically, and showing we had been the absolute definition of unsustainable development here in Ireland.
What I’ve done in terms of academia is I enrolled in a PhD program in Trinity College. I enrolled about three years ago and I’m working on it right now. I got a bit distracted but I’m back on the case. I’ve come up with a theory. My thesis will be that sustainable development should be constitutionalized here in Ireland.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Vincent Salafia: Victory on Slane Bypass, Then Teaching

In the last blog entry, Vincent had just described how the court asked for more information on from the NRA and the Meath County Council.

Question:What decision did the court reach:

Of course months later, which was last year, the decision came down that the planning authorities had refused permission for the Slane bypass. 

That was nice end to the whole odyssey, having had such heartbreaking, I suppose, defeats at both Carrickmines and at Tara, along the way.

Question: Did the recession help with the decision?

You would have to wonder. From a legal perspective, it shouldn’t have had any effect on the planning authorities’ decision because economic issues usually are outside the planning concerns. However, the main issue they determined was that the authorities had not looked at all of the alternatives. One of the alternatives that had been proposed, and indeed was promised to be delivered, was a ban on HGVs in the village. Funding had been taken away from the bypass because of economic issues and they were going to put in this HGV ban because the locals had been calling for 20 years for either a bypass or a HGV ban. In 2007, 2008 when things were already getting bad economically, Fine Fail announced that they were going to go ahead with the bypass and the locals were delighted. Then six months or a year later, the NRA announced that they didn’t have the money. The government said they would do the HGV ban. Minister Noel Dempsey, the local TD, who was also the Minister for Transport promised they would put in this HGV ban. But they didn’t do that and then after the visit by the Taoiseach, all of a sudden there was funding for the bypass. So this went back and forth. At the end of the day no effort was made.

What actually happened was the County Council came out with this outrageous report saying an HGV ban actually couldn’t be implemented in the village. They said they would be sued if they put it in there and that it would be impossible to implement. They even said it would affect international trade. This was all brought up in the course of the hearing. I think the planning authorities saw what was going on there, that this was public money being used not only to get votes, but even the design was so grandiose. Engineers who worked on the National Development Plan saying this is gold plated infrastructure and it should be a much further scaled down version.

The decision came back they hadn’t looked enough at alternatives. There was obviously a route to the west. The economic issues probably played a part but I think An Bord Plenala saw how they had been taken for a ride by the Council and the engineers at Brú na Bóinne. The same thing had happened at Tara. I think they saw that at Tara and they realized at both situations that they hadn’t been given all the information. They hadn’t been apprised of the full information on heritage. The proposers had assumed the authorities didn’t care. I think by the time of the Slane bypass they wanted to make up for past bad decisions, as well.

Question: Where does your teaching tie in to your development?

This is my fourth year teaching at Queens University at Belfast. Just before the Slane bypass issue appeared, I had received an email from the Irish law list, one of their usual emails, and it mentioned that Queens University was looking for someone to teach a class in environmental legislation. Because I’d been in a tough situation in Ireland where my Juris Doctorate degree from the United States is not recognized here in Ireland, I haven’t been able to go into the Four Courts and get registered as a barrister. I realized my best chance here was to take the academic route. To be honest, I was never anxious to be a litigator my whole life and I liked the idea of more of an academic approach to things. So I was delighted when I saw this opportunity because I figured this was something I would be fully qualified for. There aren’t a lot of openings for environmental law here in Ireland. I went up for the interview at the Management School at Queens. They hired me pretty much on the spot which was great.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Vincent Salafia: Brú na Bóinne Achieves Progress

In the prior blog post, Vincent had just gotten to the point of explaining the need for a safer road in Slane.

Question: Why did they want to build this road around Slane though? Aren’t there other high capacity roads nearby?

They had built the M1 motorway as part of this huge, grand motorway scheme that was introduced in Ireland by the National Development Plan back in 2000. Unfortunately, in hindsight, when I took a look at that scheme, there had been huge damage done to the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site. They hadn’t even included the Brú na Bóinne site in the Environmental Statement, even though a motorway was planned to actually go through the buffer zone of the World Heritage Site. There wasn’t awareness back then in the communities and in society of the idea of protecting heritage. There were no protest groups.

This M2 is the third major motorway going out of Dublin and was on the other side of the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site from the M1.

What was happening in Slane was there were tolls on that M1 motorway, so a lot of the big lorries were avoiding the tolls by going back onto the old road. There were counted to be 1,400 HGVs , they call them Heavy Good Vehicles in Ireland, a day going down through the village of Slane. Bad accidents were happening and it was a dangerous place. I think everyone was in agreement that something had to be done. It was unfortunate though to have the design affecting the World Heritage Site. But you have to remember these were the same engineers and the same County Council who built the other motorway on the other side of Slane and who built the M3 motorway affecting Tara. We were all very familiar with each other.  The same experts, the same archaeologists for the NRA (National Roads Agency), even going back to Carrickmines, we were all old soldiers at this stage.

There was huge support for the bypass in Slane. We had sympathy at the Hill of Tara with local community groups. This time, I was public enemy number one in Slane.  There was a silent minority of people who were concerned about the World Heritage Group, but everyone in Slane was scared to raise their head in Slane to make that point. They all knew they would be crucified. 

It was a different type of a campaign in Slane which was more legally based with people participating in the public process. The beauty of it was, unlike Carrickmines where the public process had already ended at the point where we went into court, and unlike at Tara where a lot of the public campaigners there hadn’t had a chance to participate, at Slane we were in early. We got a lot of good arguments in and used a lot of the ammunition that we’d built up over the years particularly with UNESCO, who had met with us over the Tara issue, when they were over looking at an incinerator proposal which was also close to the Brú na Bóinne site. 

We got very good submissions in. It looked very good when the authorities came back after a couple of months and asked for more information to be submitted by the NRA and the Meath County Council. They indicated they didn’t feel there was enough information submitted about the archaeological information or consideration of alternatives. That was the first good sign that things were going well for us there.

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Interview of Vincent Salafia: Hill of Tara to Brú na Bóinne

In the prior blog post, Vincent had brought the story to the Hill of Tara and how a wooden henge called Lismullin had seemed to be significant enough to at least delay the construction of the M3 road. Would the European Union act to protect such an important heritage site?

Question: What happened with the complaints to the European Union?

What happened was the legal process here required the Minister to make a decision to approve for the demolition of the Lismullin site. The EU wrote to Ireland saying they believed this decision was in breach of EU law, that the discovery of the site should have triggered a new environmental impact assessment and that work should cease. However, the Irish authorities ignored the European Union and went ahead and destroyed the site. The European Union didn’t feel strongly enough about it at the time to go into court and seek an injunction to stop it. No intervener here succeeded in getting before a court to stop it. Nothing stopped it.  Sadly, the EU did actually succeed in its legal challenge to the authorization given by Dick Roche, the Minister for the Environment, but it was too late to do any good. His decision to order the bulldozing of Lismullin was found to be in breach of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive by the European Court of Justice.

The M3 road opened in 2008.

It wasn’t too long after that the proposal to build the Slane bypass came up.

I read in the paper in 2009 there was an advertisement in the paper which included a map showing where they were going to upgrade the road from Dublin to Derry. The M3 motorway was replacing the N3 road up to Derry. Approximately seven miles to the east was the N2 road which they were going to make the M2 motorway.  There were going to be all these motorways going north out of Dublin. When I saw the ad in the paper, I was horrified for a number of reasons:

a.    It was way too close to Newgrange and the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site.
b.    Also I was horrified of the prospect of a third major campaign which caused me to say to myself, “I can’t do any more of this.”

I waited over Christmas and coming into the New Year. I waited to see if An Taise, locals, or anyone would kick up to get a campaign going.  The period for public consultation was rapidly coming to an end.  With two weeks to go, basically, nobody had said diddly. After I had built up a lot of Facebook contacts and email contacts, I decided to launch a campaign off the back of that.

I started a Facebook group called Save Newgrange and sent out a lot of invitations. Within a week we had over 10,000 members on our Facebook group. We had a lot of petition signatures and a lot of submissions got made before the deadline. That was the objective – in the space of that two weeks, to get a lot of objections in and we succeeded.

There were public hearings that were held once the deadline was closed. That particular situation was similar but very different in a lot of ways to the other campaigns.  In Slane, which is a village very near Newgrange, the overall N2 road that was being upgraded was part of this much larger project to connect Dublin with Donegal and build the longest motorway in Irish history. The motorway would pass up through Slane and up to the border where it would meet up with the A5 road up there. Indeed the Irish government (in the Republic of Ireland in the south of Ireland) had committed 500 million euros to the A5 (in Northern Ireland).

This was done under the North-South Peace Agreement, the Good Friday agreement as a way of building better connections between the North and the South. This was another sacred cow for both governments, North and South. Of course, this had been conceived without any Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), which has a broader take than an EIA, which only looks at projects. An SEA looks at plans and indeed policies, sometimes.

While I was doing this campaigning, I had gone back to university here in Ireland. I’d done a Master’s in law, in European law, so I had some training in Environmental Impact Assessment and SEA. That came in very handy in the Slane situation.

The situation in Slane was unique. I had been up in Slane to see the Rolling Stones when I was about 13 years old. From that and other visits, I knew the village very well. It’s got this very old rickety stone bridge that crosses the river Boyne. The existing road, I’d be the first to admit is a very dangerous road.


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