Experts have deemed it a “scandal” that the Bronze Age oak road at Mayne Bog in Coole, County Westmeath, has not been protected or surveyed and is being mulched for use as compost for gardening.
The oak road at Mayne Bog measures up to 6 meters in width and dates from 1200 to 820BC. It was discovered in 2005 by Westland Horticulture while they were extracting peat from the site. They were expected to cease work, but Ireland’s National Monument Services did not issue a preservation order or record the road in the Register of Historic Monuments.
Every summer the road is mulched into compost. Now 75 percent of the ancient road is gone.An Taisce, Ireland’s national trust, called it “the destruction of a major archaeological monument, a major timber-built road of European significance…is continuing.”
Professor John Waddell, an expert in the Bronze Age, said, “It is quite extraordinary that this discovery has not been the subject of comprehensive survey and more extensive excavation.
“It is a scandal that its destruction through industrial peat cutting continues unchecked...Given the European significance of discoveries like this, the inaction of the Department of Arts, Heritage and An Gaeltacht is as depressing as it is inexplicable.”
A spokesperson for Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphries, wrote to An Taisce saying, “Given the co-operation so far secured from the landowner, it is not considered that further steps under the National Monuments Acts...would be useful or warranted at this stage.”
Westland Horticulture said they fully cooperated with archaeologists from Dúchas, now the National Monuments Service, which carried out a preliminary inspection. They also allowed for archaeological consultants to investigate the track.
However, only a tiny fraction of the site was required to be excavated according to the licenses.
An Taisce hopes the European Commission will intervene.
“We’re now referring the matter to the European Commission for intervention on the basis of a breach of a European Commission Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.”
Prof Waddell added, “Many wooden track-ways are of simple construction, made of brush-wood or round-wood, and served as pathways across short stretches of bog or wet ground, [only] a small number of larger plank-built constructions are known.”