What do elephants and henges have in comon?


The campaign to save the historic artefacts in the Tara Skryne Valley continues unabated. I met the Director of the National Museum of Ireland, Pat Wallace at the weekend and he looks like a man who hasn’t had to seek his sorrows. He embodies the kind of fulcrum that Ireland faces today, how to proceed yet how much to preserve. I had no intention of engaging him on the subject of Tara, although when we parted, I left him with the Irish blessing ‘Go n-éirigh an bóthar leat’. (May the road rise with you….)

When I was a child, we used to have a fairy fort in a nearby field, and it was understood without question that it was never touched or damaged. To do so would be to incur great wrath and bad luck. Much is now being made of the symbolic importance of the latest find on the site, and the implied importance of having to remember Ireland’s past while ensuring its future. I was more than a bit shocked to learn that all this conversation about building the M3 is proceeding while there are still no rail or reliable, modern public transport links from Navan to Dublin. That seems immoral to me. One of the latest suggestions is that the baby elephant recently born in Dublin Zoo should be named Tara. One of the Tara Watch contributors listed the following reasons for such a move:
1. In parts of Asia, elephants have royal connections, so it is fitting
that the new calf be linked to the Irish royal seat.
2. The name Tara features in Indian mythology, as a deity that is
revered in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
3. The elephant was born within days of the announcement that the new
monument had been discovered.
4. Like the Hill of Tara, wild elephants face many threats.

A little bit of a stretch on some of those reasons, but it’s meant well no doubt!

I would have linked you to some news about the baby elephant on the zoo web site, but it seems nothing important has happened in the zoo since January 2006. Or at least thats the last time the site was up dated.

It’s a pity, because Berlin zoo were able to utilise the birth of a baby polar bear to improve their fortunes enormously. Baby Knut became quite controversial at one point, but the zoo skillfully managed the controversy and attracted record numbers of visitors. The pregnancies of Giant Pandas are so fascinating that you can actually engage in a pregnancy watch. Unless I am looking in the wrong place, it seems that Dublin zoo is missing out on some great opportunities to promote themselves and provide an educational service for the public using the internet.

In an area rich with antiquity such as the Tara valley, there will always be a great tension between progress and respect for the past. Ireland is a growing country with a complex past, and it is hard not to feel sympathy for commuters who apparently face up to 3 hours on the road to Dublin. Maybe there really is a lesson to be learned from the past. The architects who created the monuments of the past used their imagination and creativity in doing so. The challenge now is to use the same level of imagination and lateral thinking to ensure we do not lose something precious in the headlong rush to solve a possibly short term problem.