Category: Archive

No via through ‘Dublin’s Pompeii’

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Volcanic ash has a knack of preserving even as it covers. Asphalt just covers.
But a castle once rose on this site and a second, closer look will confirm it.
Another glance, roughly 150 yards to the north of what some argue is an historical treasure, will reveal what could be an advancing wall of volcanic ash. Only it isn’t ash. It’s a highway.
Like some medieval siege work, a great wall of earth rises more than 50 feet. Road construction machines can be seen moving back and forth on top of it.
But the advance on Carrickmines Castle has suddenly been halted.
Not by a relief force, but by court action and fervent political debate that has drawn in all political parties, environmentalists, archaeologists and several government departments and state agencies.
The bottom line for now is a standoff involving an archaeological site with no archaeological work being carried out, and an incomplete highway that has been dubbed “the road to nowhere.”
Carrickmines is a South Dublin suburb that borders on what still passes for countryside in one of the fastest developing conurbations in Europe. There are still working farms in the area and indeed the castle ruins are to be found on what was up until last year a working farm. But it’s the area’s very openness and lack of development that resulted in it being chosen as the route for a motorway, the M50.
The motorway is intended to eventually route traffic flows around the Irish capital rather than right through it. The motorway will include a number of major interchanges, one of which is on the planning books for a plot of land adjoining the castle site.
Few argue that the motorway is badly needed. Dublin’s road traffic congestion has reached nightmarish proportions, especially in the last decade.
The M50 itself has been on the planning books for 30 years. The part of it running through Carrickmines and other nearby suburban areas has been dubbed “the Southern Cross.”
When completed, the motorway ring will link major road improvements both north and south of Dublin city. Eventually, it is anticipated that a combined motorway and dual carriageway will run from south of Belfast to Rosslare in County Wexford.
But the impasse over the castle means that even now there is no definite completion date for a road that has the future of Dublin’s traffic flow riding on it, but not so much as a scaled down economy car at the congested present.
Roads might be earthbound things, but this one is up in the air.
The disagreement over the fate of the Carrickmines Castle site — which is quite extensive at about 3 acres — has resulted in a gap in the motorway plan measuring roughly 1.5 kilometers, or just under a mile. It might as well be a hundred.
Work is continuing to finish up sections of the motorway to the north and south of the castle and completion of these is expected by the summer of 2005. At this juncture, however, there is less than certainty that the battle over the castle will have been concluded even by then.
In the meantime, the site is largely quiet. Entry is gained through iron gates that are open during the day but padlocked by night.
The most obvious structure is the abandoned farmhouse. On a recent visit it was being boarded up by construction workers in an effort to discourage vandals.
The farmhouse is flanked by several outbuildings. On the gable wall of one someone had painted “Save Carrickmines Castle” in broad red strokes. Just inside the gate there is a wooden board with “Carrickmines Information Service” written in one corner. Several plastic covered newspaper reports are attached to the board, which is now leaning backward into a hedge.
The board was installed by a group of conservationists, known as the Carrickminders, who occupied the site in August last year only to be expelled and barred from it by court order back in February.
What’s left of the castle, mostly defensive walls, becomes evident when an expectant eye is cast over the site. Stoneworks are to be found on both sides of the farmhouse and again on both sides of an existing two-lane road, the Glenamuck Road, that runs east-west just outside the gate.
The ground on both sides of this road is pitted and piled high after government-sponsored excavation and archaeological work that cost an estimated

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