Top US museum names Tara 'must-see' site

America’s influential Smithsonian Institute has included the Hill of Tara in a list of must-see endangered sites, it was revealed today.

The museum and research centre has put Ireland’s ancient seat of kings on a par with the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, thought to mark the birthplace of Jesus Christ, and the well-worn Route 66 through the heart of the US.

Campaigners and environmentalists have battled unsuccessfully since 2003 to force the Government to re-route the controversial M3 motorway away from the historic lands around Tara.

Vincent Salafia, campaigner with the TaraWatch group, urged the Government to take the Smithsonian’s advice.

“This should send a clear message to both the Irish Government, and UNESCO, that they cannot proceed with inscribing the Hill of Tara as a World Heritage Site, unless the M3 is re-routed,” he said.

“Action must be taken now, to avoid the Stonehenge scenario, where the UK Government is being told by UNESCO to spend £1bn (€1.12bn) moving the roads there.”

The Department of Environment and Minister John Gormley are drawing up a short-list of sites to be considered as Unesco world heritage sites - campaigners have urged officials to put forward Tara.

“The Smithsonian is one of the world’s leading cultural institutions and authorities, and their opinion rubbishes the claims made by Minister Gormley, that the M3 is not an obstacle to making Tara a World Heritage Site,” Mr Salafia said.

The list, published online and included in the March edition of the Smithsonian Magazine, warns that some of the world’s most precious historic and artistic sites might be gone tomorrow.

Also included in the list is the Fenestrelle Fortress in Italy, better known as the Great Wall of the Alps, the ancient Chan Chan mud-brick settlement in Peru and the Serbian Orthodox Visoki Decani Monastery in Kosovo.

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