I was delighted to read in the Irish Times on Saturday, March 1st, that Séamus Heaney
was applying the word “sacred” to Tara. While I’m not at all comfortable with the word, I used it last year in correspondence with an archaeologist employed by the National Roads Authority.
My progress towards using the word was strange. When first I heard that there was a proposal to build a motorway at Tara, I assumed it was a joke. As the project progressed, I found myself wondering about the first time it was proposed. I wondered were there minutes of a meeting held years ago at which someone said something along the lines of, “Let’s put a motorway through Tara”. Did those hearing the proposal laugh?
I asked this basic question and after a bit of “round the houses” found that I was corresponding with a NRA archaeologist who wanted to assure me that specific sites would not be damaged. He either didn’t understand or didn’t want to discuss the cultural significance of the area itself. I reached for the word “sacred” to try to explain why Irish people with even the mildest of national sentiments find the M3 proposal unthinkable.