The Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism has denied that the Government gagged the Director of the National Museum by preventing him from giving his opinion on the route of the M3 motorway to an Oireachtas Committee.

John O'Donoghue told RTÉ News that the director, Dr Pat Wallace, had a statutory obligation to give his opinion to the Minister for Environment before speaking to the committee.

Mr O'Donoghue accused opposition deputies of playing politics with the issue.

Earlier, the chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Environment & Local Government, Sean Haughey, said it was ‘disappointing’ and ‘regrettable’ that Dr Wallace would not be giving evidence today.

Mr Haughey said he believed Dr Wallace would have ‘a lot to say’ about the proposed routing, and that it would be good for openness, transparency and accountability.

He said the committee would be writing to the Secretary General of the Department of Arts, Sport & Tourism regarding his letter to Dr Wallace which advised him not to attend.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Mr Haughey said he believed an overly legalistic view was being taken and the absence of Dr Wallace from the proceedings was ‘unwelcome’.

He added that the committee wanted to hear from him ‘sooner rather than later’ and accepted that Dr Wallace’s offer to attend at a later stage would effectively be ‘after the horse had bolted’.

Mr Haughey said he would also be contacting the Ministers for Arts and Environment on the issue.