2008 World Monuments Watch
Located about 50 kilometers from Dublin, the Hill of Tara is considered the ceremonial and mythical capital of Ireland, and is the centerpiece of a large archaeological landscape with hundreds of significant sites. Celtic in origin, Tara is said to be the location of St. Patrick's conversion of the Irish to Christianity in the early fifth century, and was the coronation site of Irish kings between the sixth and twelfth centuries. In 1641, it was at Tara that the Catholic English allied themselves with the native Irish against the Protestant English. Due to this and subsequent events, Tara has developed into a focal point of the modern national landscape. Over the past decade, the Irish economy has undergone an extraordinary period of growth, which has led to increasing development and investment in infrastructure, particularly transportation. One new project is the proposed construction of a new M3 motorway that would serve Dublin commuters. The motorway, which is to run within 1.5 kilometers of the Hill of Tara and bisect the Tara-Skryne valley, threatens not only the Tara cultural landscape, but also the yet-to-be-uncovered archaeological sites that are thought to surround it. In addition to the destruction of historic material, the combination of tree-felling, major earthworks, and road construction—as well as ongoing noise and visual pollution that accompany them—will forever change this iconic landscape. The motorway development will also likely result in changes of local land use from agrarian to suburban, which may encourage further rapid and inappropriate development. At the moment, only the Hill of Tara itself is protected, while the surrounding natural and archaeological landscape, about which we still have much to learn, is vulnerable. It is hoped that Watch listing will compel authorities to rethink the radical alteration of this important site.
Since the Watch
In May 2014, the Lia Fáil, the ancient standing stone on the Hill of Tara was vandalized, leaving more than half of the five-thousand-year-old coronation stone covered with paint. This followed previous vandalism in 2012, when the stone was struck with a hammer. The attacks have prompted debate about the need for heightened surveillance at the site.