Back in June of this year the new highway going through the area around the Hill of Tara was opened to traffic. From what I saw on Tuesday during my first journey on the road, they shouldn't have bothered.

The M3 Motorway was controversial from the day it was first mooted because the whole area around the Hill of Tara is of tremendous historical significance. Tara was the primary center of prehistoric Ireland and remained so for thousands of years. At different times Tara was an ancient burial ground, a place of worship, and the spot where Ireland's high kings were crowned. According to archaeologist Joe Fenwick, Tara is "acknowledged as one of Europe's foremost cultural landscapes." {Watch documentary on Tara and the road here.}

Despite all that - and I don't say this lightly - I was in favor of the proposal to build the M3 when the government first suggested it. Why? Because despite the historical significance of Tara the people who live in Counties Meath & Cavan have a right to live as modern Irish people and to expect that they would have the same economic opportunities as everyone else; because the government promised the route would be sensitive to Tara; and because the road the M3 was replacing actually ran nearer to the Hill of Tara and anytime I was on it that road seemed to be overtaxed with cars, trucks and buses trying to get where they needed to go. The old road was insufficient and a new four-lane highway would relieve the pressure.

Oh, yeah, and because those who protested about the new roads in north Wicklow and south Dublin near where I live were way over the top with their complaints and exaggerations of what could be lost. They also totally ignored the need that people in these areas had for those roads to be completed. I just figured that some of the same people were out to stop Meath's new, needed road just as they did around here.

However, from what I saw Tuesday it hasn't worked out that way. I drove up and down the M3 and nearly had it to myself. It wasn't rush hour, true, but there were so few people on the road that I couldn't help wondering why the government bothered with the project given the risk to history, the protests, the costs, everything.

Virtually no one was on the road. Why that is I can't say, but maybe it's the tolls - €5.20 ($6.60) for a round trip - or maybe the "sensitive to Tara" route is too inconvenient for those who live in that part of Meath or maybe it's a combination of the two.

I can tell from reading some bulletin board posts that many local people have decided to stick with the old road, formerly the N3, despite moves to lower the speed limit on that road in a bid to force people onto the new tolled highway.

Whatever the reason, it seems a shame when you consider the damage to the historical region around Tara (and the damage shown on the video above is greater than I realized at the time.) Maybe when vacation season ends the traffic will be greater. Maybe the road isn't the white elephant it appeared on Tuesday. I hope so because to me, now, the M3 was a waste of money and history.

{I should have posted these before now, but here are the links for Part 2 & Part 3 of the documentary on Tara. It is, as Searlit says below, "really informative."}