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.

Next Post: Vincent Salafia: Victory on Slane Bypass, Then Teaching

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


  1. It is a pity that Mr. Salafia does not see fit to clarify that there was one objection on the part of Slane people and widespread support existed then and exists now for the bypass, in order to prevent any further loss of life. 23 deaths now on a very short stretch of road, one of the most dangerous roads in the country, including a two year old child who was in a car waiting at traffic lights which a truck rolled over. He does not mention the mass demonstrations from Slane people demanding a road, a position which was thwarted by one part-time resident who was concerned about the impact the new road would have on his view. As a prominent lawyer, unfortunately resources were available to this resident to have legal representation and expert witnesses at the hearing which were not available to the remaining 1000 residents of Slane. It is also a pity that Mr. Salafia did not see fit to mention the balloon testing and comprehensive archaeological testing carried out which demonstrated categorically that the heritage site would not be in any way damaged, that the flora and fauna would be well protected, and all the points which Mr. Salafia raised prior to the hearing were shown as false. One death since the hearing. Let us hope it will be the last and this life-saving measure will be put in place.

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  3. Both sides of the Slane bypass debate had legitimate concerns, and both sides participated actively in the legal process that took place. The argument that one side had more resources than the other is correct, but Slane local has them mixed up.

    The pro-bypass side was aligned with the County Council, the Department of Transport and the National Roads Authority, who used millions of euros in public money to pay staff, hire a large legal team, private consultants and experts, and invest in a media campaign. On the other hand, there were many local residents who supported Save Newgrange, but were afraid to speak out in their local community, for fear of reprisals or intimidation. Neither Save Newgrange or any other body opposed to the route of the bypass did any fundraising, and hired no expert witnesses. The best witness for the objectors was the independent expert witness, hired by the Council itself, Dr Comer, from the US.

    Witnesses for both sides made their cases, and An Bord Pleanala, the independent planning authority, made a balanced and fair decision - just like the High Court did in Belfast, when it also overturned planning permission for the northern section of the A5, Dublin to Derry Road (which is the Slane Bypass is a part of), on the basis that it was in breach of the Habitats Directive. If the County Council ,the NRA and the local residents of Slane felt that the Bord had reached a bad decision, then they were free to go to the High Court and challenge it, which they chose not to do.

    I have always had great sympathy for the local community, as a whole, who are in a terrible situation, as a result of the bad planning decisions made by Meath County Council, and the incapacity of the Council to take on board all objections before finalising a route. A bypass is needed, and if there is no money for a bypass, then a HGV ban should be put in place.

    Local residents of Slane have been campaigning for a HGV ban for years. Yet, when permission for the bypass was refused, and Save Newgrange called for the HGV ban to be put in place, there was no corresponding call from the local community. Sadly, that remains the case to this day, despite the fact that the death and injury toll in Slane will continue to rise.

    Things didn't have to turn out this way. The first act of Save Newgrange was to write to the pro-bypass group in Slane and ask for a meeting, so we would perhaps come to some agreement - and ensure that both of our objectives were met; ie that Slane would get a bypass, and everyone would have their heritage protected. However, instead of engaging in dialogue, the group chose to launch a series of attacks, in the media, and online, often of a very personal nature. I was even harassed at the planning board offices. It is sad to see that this mindset continues to this day.

    Instead of blaming others, Slane resident needs to reflect on his or her own responsibility, for what did or didn't happen in the past, and what will or will not happen in the future.