The 'Save Newgrange' campaign, set up because of a perceived threat to the ancient tomb complex through the building of a proposed bypass of Slane village, was roundly condemned at a meeting of Meath County Council this week when a number of councillors declared its message as "misinformation".
The councillors were adamant that the bypass poses no threat to the tomb complex and want the Save Newgrange organisers to stop their campaign now.
Campaigner Vincent Salafia, who was closely involved with the Save Tara group in protests over the building of the M3 motorway, has said that the Bru na Boinne site around Newgrange may lose its World Heritage status if the proposed "motorway" at Slane goes ahead.
The National Roads Authority (NRA) has said the proposed route of the Slane bypass would pass some 500 metres from the perimeter of the buffer zone of the Bru na Boinne site. It added that the 3.5km road, which will be a dual carriageway, would have "the least impact", taking all factors into consideration, including the archaeology and heritage of the area.
The chosen route for the bypass has been welcomed by residents and community representatives in the village. An Taisce said that the chosen route is the least offensive.
Mr Salafia has said that Minister John Gormley could save the Newgrange site if he fast-tracks the new National Monuments Bill 2009. Mr Salafia, a spokesman for the National Monuments Forum, said: "We urge Minister Gormley to deliver this long overdue legislation and to ensure it is strong enough to protect Newgrange from this outlandish proposal."
However, when Meath County councillors met this week, Cllr Ann Dillon Gallagher proposed the suspension of standing orders so that Mr Safalia's claims about the bypass could be discussed.
She said that anyone who had been around the council chamber for the last 10 years would know that there was a campaign to have a bypass of Slane because of the number of accidents in the village and bridge. "We now have the wonderful Mr Salafia, who has never been heard in this campaign on the bridge, telling us where the bypass is going to be," she said.
She added that the bridge would be located 500 metres from the edge of the buffer zone for the Newgrange area. She said the bridge would not be seen from the Newgrange area and she could not see how this bridge would be obtrusive. "I don't know why they would want to save Newgrange when it is not even in danger", she said.
Cllr Dillon Gallagher said she had been told by Professor George Eogan that Newgrange could lose its World Heritage status because of the proposed bypass and he had used the example of how Dresden had lost similar status.
"I didn't get the opportunity to look this up on the internet but (county council director of service) Kevin Stewart here in the council looked it up and the fact of the matter is that Dresden lost its status because the city had built a four-lane road right through the core of the heritage site, not 500 yards away from the edge of the buffer zone. So much misinformation is going around over the Slane bypass," she went on.
"Let UNESCO have the truth and the facts of the matter, not misinformation. I am calling for whatever it takes to inform them about the 22 deaths in Slane. One death is too many we have to have this bypass."
Cllr Wayne Harding supported Cllr Dillon Gallagher, saying that the boundaries of the Newgrange site had been clearly drawn. The misinformation being put about would have to be stopped now. He called on the county council to get the "correct" information out to the public.
Cllr Eoin Holmes said he welcomed the proposal for the bypass. It would protect lives and be of benefit to the people of Slane. He said that the dissemination of misinformation had the potential to delay the bypass project.
Cllr Nick Killian said he had written a letter to the Meath Chronicle calling on the people of Slane to ignore Mr Salafia. "This man has cost the State millions of euro in delaying the M3 motorway," said Cllr Killian.
Cllr Jimmy Cudden said that, in 1979 or 1980, he had been on his feet in the council chamber talking about the problems caused around Slane and the bridge. He wanted the council chairman and officials to ensure that the "inaccurate" nature of the Save Newgrange campaign was pointed out to the public.
Council official Eugene Cummins said the council was fully comitted to the preservation and protection of culture and heritage within the county. He said it would be redoubling its efforts to ensure that any misinformation was counteracted.