In Longford, the Iron Age road unearthed at Corlea Bog has become the county’s prime tourism attraction, with massive oak planks wide enough for two chariots to pass side by side. In 2005, the discovery of a grander and far longer oak road at Mayne Bog in Coole, Co Westmeath, was a cause of great excitement. The National Monuments Service established that it was no mere trackway, measuring up to 6m in width, and dating to 1200-820 BC – a 1,000 years older than Corlea.
A spokesperson for Minister 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.”
For their part, Westland Horticulture said it was, “first made aware of the potential presence of an archaeological site at Mayne in 2005 and fully cooperated with archaeologists from Dúchas [now National Monuments Service] who carried out a preliminary site inspection”.
The company later allowed an archaeological consultancy to do an investigatory excavation and worked with it “to apply for licences to complete additional excavation works to the trackways. The work was carried out according to the methodology stipulated.”
The issue appears to be that the licenses only required a tiny fraction of the site be excavated. An Taisce hopes the European Commission will intervene. “The track is undoubtedly of European significance and far older than the Roman roads,” says Ian Lumley of An Taisce.