An Taoiseach and NRA were made aware by David Trimble and the Orange Order that M6 would damage battle site

19th January 2005
Press Release

Attribution: Dr. Mark Clinton of An Taisce’s National Monuments & Antiquities Committee. For further information, please call Ruadhan Mac Eoin at 086 8146077.

Aughrim: An Taisce notes that An Taoiseach and NRA were made aware by David Trimble and the Orange Order that M6 would damage battle site.

In March 2001, representations were made to the Taoiseach as to the significance of the Aughrim site and the damage that would be done by building the M6 through this historic battlefield in Co. Galway. Cecil Kilpatrick Bsc., Archivist of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, warned that the route would run "through the Command Post of the Williamite General Ginkel, through the position of the right wing of the Williamite Cavalry commanded by Huguenot General Ruvigny and through the site of a Williamite Gun Battery. Finally, the road would obliterate 'Lutterell's Pass'” and so have "equally devastating effects on the Jacobite positions".

At the time, 7th March 2001, Mr. Kilpatrick also forwarded similar correspondence to then First Minister of the Northern Assembly, David Trimble MP, MLA. Subsequently Mr. Trimble wrote to An Taoiseach, Mr. Ahern. In a reply dated 22 June 2001 Mr Ahern assured him that “Galway County Council and their consultants are aware of the historical importance of battlefields (sic) at Aughrim and you can be assured that full consideration of their significance will be taken into account during route design". Indeed preceding this assurance, Mr Ahern had already noted that “the preliminary design for the new N6 route has only just commenced and the exact location is still under review”.

At the planning hearings last week, Dr. Harmon Murtagh, the historian consulted for the Environmental Impact Statement, admitted under questioning that as a historian, he would prefer if the route passed further north avoiding the battlefield. It is now clear that well in advance, both the NRA (National Roads Authority) and An Taoiseach were made well aware as to the damage that would be caused by the M6. Equally, given that representatives of Grand Orange Lodge never signed off as being satisfied, it is now clear that the assurances given were, at best, tokenistic.

As a result of what has been let happen, it would appear that the southern Irish authorities are in breach of the spirit of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement which prioritises "parity of esteem" in terms of respect for the different cultures. Equally the Republic’s government are also in breach of the Environmental Impact Assessment directive 85/337/EEC as amended 97/11. This EU directive requires that any development with a trans-boundary dimension needs to secure the approval from the relevant authorities in the other state affected.

An Taisce notes that the plan to build a motorway through the Aughrim battlefield site has attracted the objections of heritage interests representing all sides of the political spectrum - from the National Graves Association to the Orange tradition. Their shared objections are backed by An Taisce as well as the Academy for Heritage, which represents many of the country's historians, including Dr. Padraig Lenihan – a leading expert on 17th century Irish military history. The M6 scheme is particularly destructive to what historians have described as "Ireland's Gettysburg". It also clear that the scheme has not been thought through - as evidenced by the extremely late submission of a geo-physical survey by the NRA at the hearing last week - thus depriving the public of enough time to adequately examine it.

Being the battle with the greatest fatalities (up to 9, 000 killed) ever fought in Ireland, Aughrim is home to the country's largest unmarked war grave. What sense was there ever in locating a motorway there?

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