TSPG Submission to UNESCO

By July 24, 2014 at 2:50 pm

The following is a submission on Tara’s nomination for World Heritage status by the Tara Skryne Preservation Group.



Tara is the core area of a large archaeological and cultural landscape dating back to Neolithic times. Every era is represented in its monuments, its historical records, in its mythology and in the very psyche of the Irish people both here and the diaspora worldwide. Tara was the home of the High Kings of Ireland’s proud past and was the spiritual hub of its people. Its importance can never be underestimated. Much of it is older than the Pyramids of Egypt, Machu Pichu in Peru and Stonehenge in England.

The modern day Irish Government saw fit to progress the M3 Motorway though the world renowned Tara Skryne Valley. This act of cultural vandalism uncovered 45 sites of archaeological and heritage importance along the route. Many of these were “preserved by record”. All are now gone forever and nothing remains of them for posterity except photos and documents. If left to the care of the Irish Government we fear that industrial and suburban development will be allowed to encroach upon this sacred landscape and so we seek to have the Tara Skryne Landscape inscribed for World Heritage Status in the hope that Unesco will prevent any further assaults on its integrity by the Irish Government.

The Tara Skryne Preservation Group vehemently oppose the current route of the M3 Motorway which was deemed illegal by the EU Court due to non compliance with Environmental Impact Assessment requirements.


Name of Site:

Tara Skryne Landscape, Co. Meath.

Geographical Location:

Enclosed map showing core area and buffer zone.

  • Core Zone:  The Hill of Tara monumental complex, the Tara Skryne Valley, including Rath Lugh and Lismullin National Monuments.This landscape boundary is marked by forts and earthworks at Rath Lugh, Skryne, Collierstown, Rath Maeve, Ringlestown, Riverstown, Rath Miles and Garlagh.
  • Buffer Zone: From the Boyne at Trim in the southwest to where it flows into the Irish Sea at Mornington in the northeast and from the Broadmeadow where it rises in Dunsaughlin to the Malahide Estuary in the east. All the islands between the Boyne and Malahide estuaries. From Trim to Galtrim and Dunshauglin.
  • Description of site: The Tara landscape is a world renowned area of immense archaeological, cultural and heritage value. It is a place of huge significance culturally, spiritually, historically and politically containing many monuments and earthworks testifying to its use as a ceremonial and Royal site as well as a place of dwelling and burial by different cultures from the Stone Age right up through Medieval Ireland and the present day.

From the summit of the Hill of Tara several counties can be seen. It yields breathtaking panoramic views.

Tara has been extensively written about in the Mythologies of the Irish people thus signifying its immense importance within our culture.


World Heritage outstanding universal criterion for the site met:

Points 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 met


World Heritage outstanding universal criterion for the site met:

World Heritage outstanding universal criterion for the site met:

World Heritage outstanding universal criterion for the site met:

World Heritage outstanding universal criterion for the site met:

Must bear a unique testimony to a cultural tradition/ civilisation which is living or has disappeared

The Tara Landscape provides an archaeologically rich tapestry of evidence dating back 9000 years with the discovery of a fishing implement at Clowanstown, unearthed during the excavations for the M3 Motorway. Iconic structures such as the Mound of the Hostages dating back to the Neolithic era, sousterrains, embankments and other earthworks also provide testimony of past civilisations  as well as the beautifully preserved Megalithic artwork discovered on the Lismullin Stone during excavations of the Woodhenge at Lismullin. The examples are myriad and continue to be recorded and investigated including through LiDAR and Geophysical examinations.

Over the last three years people from 68 different religions have been recorded as having visited the site which is testament to its importance as a spiritual and sacred place.


Exhibit an important interchange of human values over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town planning or landscape design:

Tara Skryne exhibits Neolithic and Megalithic carvings at the Mound of the Hostages and on the Lismullin Stone. The archaeological discoveries show continued use of this landscape and its transition through the ages. Much of these are documented in the findings of the Discovery Programme .

The Neolithic Mound of the Hostages is the oldest visible monument on the Hill.  The chamber is aligned to the rising sun at Samhain. This defines Tara as a Samhain site when the Feis Temro was held and the King married the Land Goddess. Samhain was later Christianised as Halloween which arrives one week early in our Gregorian calendar.

At Lismullin Woodhenge it has been shown that the rising Pleiades transited the entrance avenue Aug-Nov 400BC. Work is ongoing concerning further astronomical alignments there but one leading archaeoastronomer who spoke at the Tara Symposium in UCD Oct 2009 stated that the accuracy of the construction astonished him.

The Tara Landscape equinox line runs due west from Bective or Ballina townland on the Boyne, over the Hill of Tara, and due east to Skerries on the Irish Sea. At Skerries the Boyne Estuary [Inber Colpha] lies 15km to the north while the Broadmeadow Estuary [Inber Domnann] at Malahide lies 15km to the south.

Evidence still being gathered points to this being a sacred landscape which we are yet to fully understand.

Mythology is symbolic code which shows processes and events in the landscape. Below are parts of Tara’s Dreamtime.


Mythic Core Zone

Tara – is the heartbeat of sacred Ireland. Around 180 High Kings have lived and fought here for 3000 years. It is the centre of the Sovereignty Goddesses Tea, Medb Lethderg and Eithne Taebfota and who made legitimate the King’s reign when he married her.

The Gabhra Valley – [Gabor – goat, white mare, bright] The scene of the great Battle of Gabhra in 284AD when High King Cairbre Lifechair wiped out the Fianna. Cairbre was killed in the fight.

Skryne – [Scrín Colmcille] –  Originally known as Achall.

Achall died of grief when her brother’s head was cut off on the Hill of Tara by Ulster hero Conal Cernach in revenge for the death of Cúchulainn.  Her name was locked into the landscape.

Ráth Lugh – Before the Second Battle of Moytura the God Lugh was stopped and questioned here on his way to the Hill of Tara. As Samildánach [master of all arts] he answered all questions and was allowed to enter the precincts of Tara. At Lughnasadh when one stands at Ráth Gráinne on the Hill of Tara the sun rises behind Ráth Lugh.

The Lismullin Henge in the Gabhra Valley – was an astronomical observatory before it was ‘preserved by record’ and the M3 driven over it. One third remains outside the landtake for the M3 Motorway and it is entirely possible that this part of the Henge could be reconstructed. It is dated from 560BC to I86BC.

The ‘processional avenue’ points to the north side of Ardcath where in local folklore the Fianna gathered before the Battle of Gabhra and where Oscar, grandson of Finn MacCumhaill is buried.

The line extends to the Bremore Megalithic Complex on the Fingal coast north of Balbriggan. It is now speculated that this complex was built by the same peoples who later erected Brú na Bóinne.


Mythic Buffer Zone -West and North

Tara is bounded on the west and north by the River Boyne [Bó Find – the White Cow] which rises in the Otherworld at Sídhe Nectain at the base of Carbury Hill in Co. Kildare and empties into the Irish Sea at Mornington Co. Meath. In the process she passes Navan, Slane, the Brú na Bóinne complex and flows into the sea at Inber Colptha.

At Navan [An Uaimh – the cave] – the River Boyne meets and mingles with the Blackwater. Milesian High King Éremón’s first wife Odba is buried in the Moat from which Navan gets its name. Tea was his second wife. Tara is named after her.

Slane – Fir Bolg Sláine Mac Dela is buried here. He was first High King of Ireland.

Brú na Bóinne – complex of Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth and ancillary monuments are one of two Irish World Heritage sites. The other being Scellig Michael.

Here the Tuatha Dé Danann reign supreme. The Dagda Mór, Bóann, Midir, Elcmar and his daughter Englec, Óengus Mac Ind Óc – the Love God, Fuamnach … There is a hugh nexus of stories about this great site including Lugh impregnating Deichtine/Dectire with Cúchulainn.

The Kings of Tara buried here with the Tuatha Dé included Cairbre Lifechair who was killed in AD284 at the archetypal Battle of Gabhra mentioned earlier.

The Boyne enters the Irish Sea at Inber Colptha named after Colptha who drowned here. He was brother of future Milesian High King Éremón.

It is here that the Galióin, a division of the The Fir Bolg, invaded Ireland. As did the Milesians after they broke the Tuatha Dé Danann spell of staying out to sea beyond nine waves.


Mythic Buffer Zone- South and East

Galtrim– Cormac Mac Airt was banished from Tara to this boundary after he was defeated by the Laigin led by Medb Lethderg – the Sovereignty Goddess.

Dunshaughlin – nearby Lagore [Loch Gabhar- the lake of the goat or white mare]. The same root meaning as the Gabhra Valley between Hill of Tara and Skryne. Lagore was the capital of Southern Brega as Knowth was of Northern Brega. The Tara Landscape was part of Brega which ran from part of Louth through Meath to the Tolka River in Dublin. Brega was a Milesian.

Lagore – Leinster hero Maelodrán killed the three sons of High King Diarmaid Mac Cerrbheoil by crushing them in a mill. Diarmaid demanded revenge and went with his army to Loch Gabhar and camped on an island in the lake. That night Diarmaid went out to relieve himself just as Maelodrán arrived. Maelodrán was about to cut the head of the High King but spared him when Diarmaid agreed to forego his revenge. Maelodrán became Diarmaid’s champion.

Was Galtrim andLagorethe boundry between theTara landscape and the Laigin?

Broadmeadow Estuary, Malahide, Co.Dublin. Originally called Inber Domnann where another division of the Fir Bolg – the Fir Domnann – invaded Ireland.

TF O’Rahilly [1946] speculated that the place name Domnann was derived from a Goddess.

Túathal Techtmar arrived at Inber Domnann and on to Tara where he defeated and slew High King Elim Mac Conra in the Battle of Achall – now Skyrne – in revenge for Elim’s killing of his father. Túathal became High King. He expanded the Tara demesne when he nominated four sites to represent the other provinces in Mide.


Uisnech for Connacht

Tlachtga [Hill of Ward] for Munster

Tailtiu for Ulster.

Tara for Leinster.

He died in AD 106


Main Sources:

Byrne, Francis J. Irish Kings and High-Kings. Four Courts Press. 1973. 2001.

Gray, Elizabeth A. Cath Maige Tuired, The Second Battle of Moytuired. Irish Texts Society 1982.

Gwynn, Edward, The Metrical Dindshenchas 5 vols. School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies 1991.

Halpin, Andy & Newman, Conor. Ireland, An Oxford Archaeological Guide. Oxford University Press 2006.

Hogan, Edmund, S.J. Onomasticon Goedelicum. First published 1910. Four Courts Press reprint 1993.

Holten, Anthony. Where Toll Roads Meet. Self Published 2008.

Mac Airt, Seán & Mac Niocaill. Annals of Ulster. Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies 1983.

Macalister, RA Stewart [edited & translated]. Lebor Gabála Erenn, The Book of the Taking of Ireland 5 vols. Irish Texts Society.

MacKillop, James. Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. Oxford 1998.

Mac Neill, Eoin & Murphy, Gerald. Duanaire Finn, The Book of the Lays of Fionn. 3 Vols. Irish Texts Society.

O’Donovan, John. [edited & translated]. Annala Rioghachta Eireann – Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by The Four Masters. De Búrca Rare Books. Dublin 1990.

Ó hÓgain, Dáithí. The Lore of Ireland. An Encyclopedia of Myth, Legend and Romance. The Collins Press 2006.

O’Rahilly, Thomas F. Early Irish History and Mythology. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies 1984.

Royal Irish Academy. Dictionary of the Irish Language. Compact Edition. RIA, Dublin 1990.

Rees, Alwyn & Rees, Brinley. Celtic Heritage. Thames & Hudson. 1961.

Smyth, Daragh. A Guide to Irish Mythology. Irish Academic Press. 1988.

Bhreathnach, Edel [editor]. The Kingship and Landscape of Tara. Four Courts Press for the Discovery Programme. 2005.

O’Sullivan, Muiris. Duma na nGiall. The Mound of the Hostages, Tara. Wordwell  2005.

Be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble which illustrates significant stages in human history

The Tara Skryne Landscape is a complex of structures lending to an experience of a unique cultural landscape hampered only by the M3 Motorway.


Be an outstanding example of traditional human settlement, land use or sea use which is representative of a culture or cultures or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change

From the archaeological evidence of habitat, dwelling, ceremonial, agricultural, hunting and fishing activities we can begin to understand the life styles of our ancestors and their interaction with the land over the millennia. This includes the evidence of precise astronomical understanding in the construction of various monuments within the valley.

The Tara Skryne Landscape has never been more vulnerable than under the present modern day Irish Government with its approval for the construction of the M3 Motorway through this sacred Valley.


Be directly or tangible associated with events or living traditions, with ideas or with beliefs with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance

The first written lore of Tara is to be found in the Dinschenchas which was commissioned by a High King of Tara.


Authenticity in World Heritage context: Please state the level of authenticity of the site

Many documents and studies exist proving the authenticity of the site. LiDAR and Geophysical studies connected to the Discovery Programme and the excavations that were part of the construction of the M3 Motorway have unveiled a landscape rich in archaeology extending far beyond the realms of expectation.


Integrity of a World Heritage Context: Please state how the site meets the criteria of integrity

The Tara Skryne Landscape contains a complex of structures, a necropolis of the dead, a Royal site, places of dwelling, ceremonial sites and sites of scientific schooling. Its continued use throughout the ages can be seen in the existence of these structures upon the landscape. It is also evidenced in the history and mythology of Tara.

The biggest threat to the integrity of this Landscape is the Irish Government and the M3 Motorway.


Comparison with other similar properties- are there similar properties in Ireland, Europe, worldwide? If so please provide a short description of the sites and indicate what are the similarities with the site in Ireland

Tara is unique in that it was the centre of life in Ireland for thousands of years- a symbol of political, cultural and spiritual life as seen through its history and folklore. It may have some similarities with other sites but ultimately surpasses them all in importance. Other Royal sites such as Rathcroghan Co. Roscommon, Bru na Boinne Co Meath and  Emhain  Macha in Armagh can be compared in historical terms.


Please list what legal protections are in place for the site

Tara does not have any legal protection in place. The amendments to the National Monuments Act in 2004 was brought about to facilitate the construction of Motorways thus leaving all National Monuments and monuments in general, vulnerable to destruction.

At present there is a process underway called the Tara Skryne Landscape Project under the management of the Dept of the Environment, Meath County Council and The Heritage Council to establish a plan for the management of the landscape. However, one third of the way through this process they still have not defined the boundaries of the landscape they seek to manage and protect. The introduction of a Conservation Plan has not even been broached and public consultation has been minimal.

The Meath County Development Plan is due for review every 5-6 years and thus open to the same suspected cronyism and political corruption that granted approval for the M3 Motorway with its subsequent destructive route through the Tara Skryne Valley.


Please list any threats to the site-erosion, decay, structural, waste etc

The erosion of such an iconic structure as the Mound of the Hostages both inside and out is evidence that the site is not properly managed in accordance with its importance. The woodlands of Rath Lugh, Tara’s outer defence post is just one other example of such neglect.

The chief threat to the site is the M3 Motorway and the fact that no legislation is in place to stop industrial and suburban development from expanding into the valley in association with that Motorway.


Summary of Threats
  • Construction of the M3 Motorway and the six lane at Blundelstown Interchange.
  • Secondary Industrial development.
  • Settlement and associated development.
  • The Leinster Outer Orbital Route which may intersect the M3 Motorway at Blundelstown Interchange.
  • Neglect and mismanagement of the area and its monuments.
  • Landowners destroying such sites as Rath Meave through agricultural activity.
  • Compulsory Purchase Order legislation.


Please list any management issues with regard to the site, visitor management. Access, traffic management:

When inscription is successful we would like to see access remain as it currently is, free and unrestricted but with proper site management. Traffic and visitor facilities are an issue at present, especially at peak tourist times.


Ownership: Please list the relevant owners of the site including within the core and buffer areas:

The Hill of Tara is owned by the State/ people of Ireland overseen by the Irish Government and the land currently occupied by the M3 Motorway is part owned and leased to foreign multinational corporations for the next 45 years. The rest of the land is in private ownership.



Name and contact details of submitter:

Tara Skryne Preservation Group,

Hill of Tara Co. Meath,


Carmel Diviney.

Status:  Secretary

EMAIL carmeldiviney@eircom.net

PH: 0876100771

About the Author:


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