Construction on a motorway continues despite the discovery of an ancient Christian burial site in County Laois.

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of more than 500 skeletons on the route of the proposed M7 Portlaoise to Castletown/M8 Portlaoise to Cullahill motorway scheme. The remains were discovered near a previously unknown 7th century settlement at Parknahown near Cullahill in County Laois.

The National Roads Authority (NRA) say finds of minor significance have been unearthed on the Parknahown site. Local priest Father Willie Hennessy says people of the parish are shocked to learn the NRA is continuing with work on the motorway,

The burial site of their ancestors which has been undisturbed for 1,500 years is now desecrated to such an extent.

Father Hennessy says locals expected the archaeologists to preserve the site when the burial ground was discovered.

Archaeologists are excited to have a rare opportunity to excavate an early Christian burial site in the county of Laois. M7/M8 project archaeologist Sylvia Desmond reports the site was active from the 7-8th century and ceased in 9-10th century when it seemed to have functioned as a graveyard.

The NRA is keen for construction of the motorway to carry on but people of the area want to see it cease immediately and the burial ground left in peace.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 11 January 2006. The reporter is Ciarán Mullooly.