Lemgare Mass Rock Pic: Blackquarterfox (own work) (Creative Commons Licence CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
This section dealt with cultural heritage
Shirley Clerkin, heritage officer, represented Monaghan County Council along with senior planner Toirleach Gourley. At the start of the proceedings the presiding inspector was asked to allow a consultant archaeologist for EirGrid Declan Moore to add new information regarding four monuments, one of them in Co. Monaghan and the others in Meath, to the environmental impact statement.
LEMGARE MASS ROCK
Mr Moore explained that a new cultural heritage monument had been added to the archaeological survey database since completion of the evaluation of the North/South interconnector. The site was uploaded to the National Monuments Service historic environment viewer on 25th January 2016 by Michael Moore (archaeologist with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht).
Lemgare Mass Rock is located to the east of a prominent rock outcrop known as the Lemgare rocks in the townland of Lemgare, Co. Monaghan (beside the border with Co. Armagh). The Mass Rock is approximately 30m to the east of one of the proposed pylons and approximately 25m from the overhead power line on an elevated site overgrown with gorse and furze (separate field). The site is located just down from the summit of Lemgare Rocks.
A west-facing rock face is the traditional location of a venue where Mass was celebrated in Penal times and possibly as early as the mid-1700s, according to a survey carried out by Rev. Pádraig Ó Gallachair in 1957 on behalf of the Diocese of Clogher. The information regarding the exact location of the Mass rock was scant; a ‘Report on the state of Popery of 1731’ identifies the site as being in the Parish of Clontibret and the entry reads ‘one Altar made of earth & stones uncovered’. The precise location was unknown at the time of the compilation of the EIS.
Declan Moore’s evaluation is that there will be no direct physical impact. The sensitivity of the site to impacts on setting was found to be high. The magnitude of the impact on the site was found to be substantial. The overall significance on the impact of the proposed interconnector on the setting of the site was considered to be significant.
According to the EirGrid consultant, three recorded monuments in County Meath were added to the archaeological survey database since he completed his evaluation of the North-South interconnector at Teltown Church, the importance of which was to be raised later in the proceedings. A cross, a cross-inscribed stone and rock art (located in the graveyard) were uploaded in January. Despite these additions the overall significance of the impact on the setting of Teltown Church remained ‘moderate negative’, as noted in the environmental impact statement.
In a submission about the impact of the EirGrid plans, Monaghan County Council heritage officer Shirley Clerkin said there were 15 archaeological sites containing 34 megalithic tombs that would be permanently impacted. Two demesnes at Tully House and Shantonagh would be affected and the company’s response had been insufficient. One of the proposed access routes for construction of two towers passed beside a protected circular fort at Latnakelly. There was a high risk that the perimeter wall would be damaged by increased heavy traffic on the laneway. The EirGrid archaeologist said in this location the contractor would be made aware of the monument to ensure no damage occurred and would be required to use lighter machinery to reduce vibrations from construction traffic.
The heritage officer pointed out that on the proposed route, there was a particular cluster of megalithic tombs in the area from Cornamucklagh South going northwards to Lennan. There might be added potential for archaeological evidence of neolithic settlement or other monuments in this area. She stressed that it would be important a photographic analysis of the visual impact was provided before the development went ahead. EirGrid said the portal tomb at Lennan (situated prominently on a drumlin) was about 250m away from the route of the power lines in an area not accessible by the general public. The overall impact of the development on the setting remained the same as stated in the environmental assessment, namely significant.
Monaghan County Council has been leading a regional Black Pig’s Dyke project since 2014. This Bronze Age or Iron Age fortification was a recorded monument on the national register. There were obvious surface remains along some of its length in County Monaghan, at the east, south of Lough Muckno and to the west of the county below Scotshouse. The extensive lines of ditches which spread into neighbouring counties are considered to be amongst the oldest, largest and most celebrated land boundaries in prehistoric Europe.
The EirGrid report by consultant archaeologist Declan Moore said the site was believed to have been a single defensive earthwork running from Sligo to Louth and presently was untraceable for most of its length. Parts of the earthwork had been identified in County Cavan just east of Bellananagh and in County Monaghan. The company said it was possible that the proposed line route might pass over the subsurface remains of this earthwork.
Mr Moore was asked by the presiding inspector to outline measures that would be taken to protect historic monuments that were near proposed towers and access routes. He explained what would be done in specific cases such as at Latnakelly fort and Corrinenty.
A leading Irish archaeologist from Co. Meath who excavated the passage tomb at Knowth informed the hearing that it would be a travesty to put power lines near the equally historic Bronze Age site at Teltown (Tealtainn). The assessment of Professor George Eogan from Nobber was read into the record by architect John Clancy from Batterstown.
Professor Eogan said the Tealtainn/Donaghpatrick heritage complex comprised one of the treasures of early Ireland and was rich in archaeology and history. The unspoilt rural landscape reflected that important heritage which he said must be preserved for present and future generations.
Professor Eogan continued: “I have consulted the plans for this proposed project and the prospect of eight massive pylons traversing this beautiful landscape is unthinkable. Not only would the pylons be a massive visual intrusion, but the ground works involved in their construction and erection will have a very detrimental effect on the hitherto undisturbed archaeological deposits.”
“The proposed erection of pylons with their massive visual and destructive intrusion on this unspoilt landscape would be a travesty for which no possible justification can be made. I sincerely hope that permission will not be granted for it to proceed”, Professor Eogan stated.
According to his assessment, Tealtainn is particularly important as it was where significant ecclesiastical and secular events took place in the past. Going right back to the Bronze Age examples of rock art of the period have been discovered in the ancient graveyard there, which also contained a font and sundial of the Early Christian period. In late prehistoric and early historic times the famous Tealtainn games were held annually, presided over by the High King. Professor Eogan said it was vital that the area be left undisturbed so as to allow for further investigation.
Donaghpatrick was another important element of the complex. The modern church incorporated the remains of a 14th- 15th century tower house. St Patrick established a church there, hence the name. Across the road from the church were very impressive remains of a triple-banked ring fort, Rath Aithir.
Professor Eogan’s letter to the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society was quoted by the Society’s Past President John Clancy from Batterstown when he made a submission to the Bord Pleanála oral hearing, now in its fifth week. Meanwhile in Dublin, a High Court challenge by the North East Pylon Pressure Group continued last Thursday and was again adjourned.
Mr Clancy, an architect, told the presiding inspector that the proposed interconnector route a few kilometres from the Hill of Tara and near other important archaeological sites would have a serious cost to our landscape and heritage and no benefit for electricity consumers. He explained that he lived 180m from a route of pylons near the ESB sub-station at Woodland, where the proposed 400kV interconnector will link into the transmission system. The pastoral landscape had been changed forever when the towers carrying six cables for a 220kV line were erected, he said.
When future generations wrote the history of how they had treated Meath’s heritage, Mr Clancy wondered if the insertion of pylons and transmission lines would be seen as yet another mistake similar to the M3 motorway as the infrastructure passed through the Teltown landscape and near the archaeological complexes of Brittas, Cruicetown, Rahood and Raffin. Although it was a major piece of important infrastructure, there was no proper provision for it in the Meath County Development Plan 2013-19. The route through Meath should therefore be excluded when Bord Pleanála made its determination, he told the presiding inspector.
Mr Clancy referred to photomontages provided by EirGrid showing what pylons would look like in key areas such as the Hill of Tara, Brittas and Bective Abbey. He said they were insufficient to arrive at a clear view of the true visual impact and further studies were required, as had happened with the N2 Slane Bypass inquiry. Consultant architect for EirGrid Joerg Schulze said all photomontages had been produced to the current best practice guidelines.
Meath County Council Heritage Officer Loreto Guinan said the Hill of Tara contained 150 recorded monuments and was one of the most culturally significant places in Ireland. It was a candidate for designation as a UNESCO world heritage site. The proposed interconnector development posed key questions as to whether it was likely to comproise the nomination made in 2010. She told the presiding inspector an independent world heritage expert should be asked to make an impact assessment, based on international standards and benchmarks.
Consultant archaeologist for EirGrid Declan Moore went through the environmental impact assessment for various sites close to the line of the proposed route. The magnitude of the impact of the proposed development on the setting of the Tara Complex would be minor. Should the development proceed, it would have a permanent, slight, negative impact on the setting of Tara.
In the Teltown area, no known archaeological monuments would be directly, physically impacted upon by the proposed development. Because of its high archaeological potential and as previously unrecorded archaeological remains could be found during the construction of the towers, mitigation measures were recommended.
The magnitude of the impact of the proposed development on the setting of Rath Dhu, the fort thought to be the centre for the ancient Teltown funeral games, was considered to be minor with the overall significance of the impact on the setting of the monument deemed to be slight.
Although the proposed power lines were almost 700m from Teltown church, a number of the towers associated with the development would be visible as it passed to the east. The magnitude of the impact of the proposed development was found to be substantial. The overall significance of the impact on the setting of Teltown church was found to be moderate negative.
EirGrid is suggesting that a licensed archaeologist supervises any excavations in advance of the construction of towers, thereby ensuring the early identification of archaeological deposits and minimal loss to the archaeological record. The National Monuments Service of the DAHG and the National Museum of Ireland would be consulted immediately should archaeology be discovered. An archaeologist would also monitor site access and construction works.
EirGrid’s assessment said the proposed development would not directly inhibit any tourist and amenity activities along the route of the power lines. However the reduction in the visual amenity of a local area might be perceived as reducing the attractiveness of an area used for tourist and amenity related activities. There would be a direct though localised visual impact on a short section of the Boyne Valley driving route, as the line crossed this route at two locations close to Bective Abbey and Gibstown. There would be direct but limited visibility when viewed from specific locations within Bective Abbey.
Other outdoor amenity areas and activities, including the location of Gibstown Drive-In Bingo, were in close proximity to the proposed development. While the overhead line would be visible from these areas and there might be a reduction in the visual amenity, it was unlikely to prohibit recreational activities continuing at these locations.