LETTERS/EMAILS

Emails -Letters- Media Reports

Over the years we have received many complaints and comments on the state of access to the countryside in Ireland. Outlined below is a selection of some of the letters, emails and media coverage.

Email: 

Subject: Our Experience 

We are 4 Belgian hikers. We've walked the Dingle Way in July. It was a very fine experience in magnificent scenery. At least... between Anascoul and Dingle there was a zone of 4 miles without signposts on the Dingle Way. That was not a great problem because we had a good detailed map and a compass. At a large farm, there was a farmer who shouted at us, we think in Irish because we don't understand a word of it, but his style was aggressive, with 2 great heavily barking dogs at his side. We walked for one mile at top speed, and during that mile, we saw in a corner at the entrance of his farm a heap of a dozen signposts laying down in high grass. During the next hour, we've discussed the possible reasons for the angriness of these farmers. When all hikers walked with respect for environment, and for work and private ownership, there wasn't a problem. There is a lot of work to do, also at the mentality of all hikers. Keep up the good work, KIO!!

Wim Erkelbout Belgium

 

Email: 

Subject: Rosscarberry Walks 

I noticed in your newsletter, that a contributor had written 'Recently, Rathbarry Castle has been renovated (we think by a private individual) and in the process, a walking path has been blocked off. We believe this to be a right of way as it is marked in an Ordinance Survey map. The walk is also described in Kevin Corcoran's book of walks in West Cork.' I took the family on that walk myself a few weeks ago, and we had the same problem. Furthermore, the ruins of Rathbarry castle appeared to have a peach-coloured house built adjoining it, The described deciduous woodlands around the walk have been razed almost in their entirety, and now consist of stumps and timber piles. So far, the only use that appears to have been made of these is a sort of paddock that has been built near the house. We had to climb a wall to continue the walk, avoiding barbed wire fences that had been erected, and on reaching the lane described in the book, we found it closed off by a padlocked gate that fortunately the children could squeeze through. We were warned off by a couple of men who appeared to be working on the inside of the bounds and told to go back where we'd come from. We managed to get out of the enclosed area by struggling through a wooded copse at the side that had not been razed, probably because there was a marshy stream running through it.

SC Co.Cork Ireland.

 

Media: 

RIGHT OF WAY ISSUES HAMPERS CARRANTUOHIL SAFETY WORKS 

The Irish Examiner reported recently that a €100,000 scheme to repair the steep and dangerous Devil's Ladder, on the most popular route to Carrantuohil, has been put on hold. The reason given was that 'agreement has yet to be reached with all local landowners'. This is just one more example of the consequences of not having a legal right of way here, or indeed practically anywhere else in Ireland.

Email: Subject: 

Greedy Farmers 

Hi Recently walking on the Beara Hills in Kerry I decided to descend via Glen Inchiquin ,three or four Kilometres west of Tuosist. As I started my descent I noticed several signs indicating how the owners had kindly provided seats, picnic areas viewing areas, car parks and so on. I pressed on to what is an obviously public road, only to be overtaken by a woman who had obviously come from the farmhouse further back and obviously the originator of the signs. I was persistently asked for an 'entrance fee' to, 'The Park' of which I had inadvertently crossed and used the facilities of - namely the track leading off the mountain.

Needless to say I did not pay. Nor did I say what I wanted to say, such as the fact that countless tax payers in Ireland and other EU countries have been paying farmers in this country for years only to discover that they - the farmers - are now holding walkers to ransom and that most of these farmers are now far more wealthy than those who paid for them in the first place.

DP W Cork

 

Email: 

Subject :Access Problems around Dingle 

The first of these problems (Ballymacadoyle) is one that we have not heard of before; the second is better known as Glaninchiquin and has been an issue for years. These quotes are from a website run by a British group interested in climbing mountains that are covered by a complicated definition which we do not profess to understand.

 Across the Irish Sea last week I encountered my first instance of an access charge (not just a parking fee). [...] - Ballymacadoyle Hill on the south side of Dingle Harbour. Is anyone else aware of other hills that you have to pay to walk up? This is getting to be a disease, and is blighting trips to what is normally a welcoming country. Kerry seems to be a hot spot - I have encountered leaflets in pubs for two hills - one describing a wonderful ridge as good value for 4 euro. [..] on Beara , Coomainha has a 'park' with an entrance charge -found out the hard way when driving up the road one evening, arriving at closing time, to be faced at the road end by a foul gomlwoman (sic, anyone know what this means?) who wanted the entry free to turn the car. I remained polite and friendly in the face of some of the rudest behaviour I have ever witnessed. Hope to God I never face that in the classroom. The park looked good - but needless to say I went elsewhere the following day. How much do the pirates want at Dingle [...]. A good sea mist would help there I suppose. 

KIO comment: So, probably a few more hill walking visitors lost to Ireland, plus their friends and those who read this website.

Email: 

Subject: ORANMORE CO GALWAY 

And here's a recent email about another area barred to walkers ..... 'We have been walking an area around Renville point, Oranmore, Co Galway for 30 years. This walk starts in Renville Park through the woods, through a golf course, and then down to the sea around the point and back past the Galway Bay Sailing Club. Recently the Golf Club has started to fence off the access to the shore. This club was originally built with EU public money - we therefore feel that the Golf Club should facilitate access to the public for walking. It is only 5/10 mins through the Course area and there is a track that the Club has for access to their greens. So no-one is walking on the actual course as such. Last Sunday we were advised that we were trespassing on private property. This seems a mean minded attitude - and possibly illegal? Surely the land is big enough to accommodate walkers and golfers? We would be interested in your comments and advice.' [Name and address given].

 KIO comment: we are investigating this one but the signs are not good. If we are correct, unless the landowner specifically dedicates a right of way to the public, it can be walked for 30 years, as in this case, or indeed 300 and it still does not constitute a right of way.]

 

IRISH TIMES LETTERS/OPINION Friday 07 July 2007 - Letters 

'Assault on Rights' IFA (Irish Farmers Association) says the recreational land use report is an 'assault on rights' A Government-commissioned report has suggested that the State can legislate to allow for access to land for recreational purposes without giving landowners a right to seek compensation. The report was last night described as "an outrageous assault on property rights" by the Irish Farmers' Association which said its recommendations were "tantamount to nationalisation".

Wednesday, July 11, 2007 - Letters Legislate for Access to the countryside 

Madam, 

 I welcome the news that a Government-commissioned report has suggested that the State can legislate for access to land for recreational purposes without giving landowners a right to seek compensation (The Irish Times, July 6th). As a member of a large walking club with 610 members, we would love to know that we can have access to the Irish uplands to enjoy one of the oldest sports in the world: hill walking. 

We are a group of people who are conscientious in our pursuit of hill-walking. We do not damage fencing, leave gates open, bring dogs with us, nor frighten cattle. We ask permission of land owners if it appears we are approaching too near their dwellings. In this era of greater environmental consciousness, hill-walkers tread lightly with their carbon footprint. 

Our sport is a healthy one that can be enjoyed without any great outlay of money. It is also a growing area of tourism, appealing to many of the visitors who come to enjoy the unique Irish countryside. 

Contrary to the view of IFA president Pádraig Walshe, we do not see ourselves in contravention of Article 43.2 of the Constitution nor in any way "attempting to abolish the general right of private ownership." We merely want to walk across open countryside, such as moorland, commonage, bog or high open countryside, and never to trespass on crops or interfere in the least with the livelihoods of hill farmers. I want to assure Irish landowners and farmers that we have absolutely no desire to interfere with people's ownership of their land. I fail to see the connection between access to the countryside and "the general right to transfer, bequeath and inherit property", as also mentioned in the Constitution. 

While Mr Walshe may consider negotiation as the way to establish access to the hills, previous discussions have resulted in stalemate and the legal route thus appears as the only way left to establish rights to enjoy the open countryside. - 

Yours, etc, 

KATHLEEN FORDE, Iveragh Road, Gaeltacht Park, Dublin 9. 

(c) 2007 The Irish Times

Monday, July 16, 2007 - Opinion

 Walk this way 

After years of fruitless negotiation, during which rural-based tourism suffered serious decline, the Minister for Rural, Community and Gaeltacht Affairs, Éamon Ó Cuív, has a responsibility to legislate for free access to mountainous and uncultivated areas. 

Established walking routes have been closed off and visitors have been threatened in a highly damaging campaign for compensation led by farm leaders. It is time that clarity and balance was brought to the issue. 

Walking and hiking holidays generate about €200 mllion a year in tourism revenues. But, at a time when the activity is growing rapidly in Britain and Europe, numbers visiting Ireland have fallen by an estimated 20 per cent. No local or tourist wants to experience threats or abuse while enjoying the countryside. But that has become an unfortunate reality in some areas. And the word has gone out that Ireland is no longer a welcoming destination for walkers. 

A report commissioned by Mr Ó Cuív has confirmed that the State can legislate for recreational access to land without giving landowners a right to seek compensation. It found that a statutory right to roam would be inappropriate near dwelling houses, over cultivated land or through immature plantations. It should, however, be provided on mountains and fields and in existing laneways designed to give access to the sea, mountains, forests or fields without a right to compensation. The document has gone to Comhairle na Tuaite for consideration.

 IFA president Pádraig Walshe described this limited right to roam as an assault on constitutional property rights and "tantamount to nationalisation". Such an over-the-top reaction is disappointing. But it reflects the abrasive campaign for special access payments which caused the IFA to threaten to close major hill-walking routes in Cork and Kerry last year. 

Private property rights are important. And they should be protected. But the public good has to take precedence when these interests come into conflict. In this instance, the right of Irish citizens and foreign visitors alike to enjoy the open countryside in a responsible way should be clearly established by law. After all, the taxes of these same people will help to fund a €6.8 billion package for the development of farms and rural communities during the next seven years. 

The situation has dragged on for too long. Now that the general election is over, Mr Ó Cuív should take account of the public interest and legislate accordingly. If a group of absentee landlords was involved, there would be no question of shilly-shallying. 

(c) 2007 The Irish Times

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 - Letters 

Walking in Connemara 

Madam, -

 Éamon Ó Cuív, Minister for Cummunity, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, has the gall to include walking as a tourist attraction in Connemara ("Building an attractive tourist trap", Features, July 13th). 

The article mentions the enormous income of Ł1.1 billion a year generated by tourism in the English Lake District, much of which derives from walkers. While we in Keep Ireland Open readily accept that there are great differences between Connemara and the Lake District (the latter is far larger and more accessible, though Connemara is just as scenic), just look at the contrast in the facilities provided for walkers in the two regions.

 In the Lake District everything that can be done to attract walking tourists has been done. The infrastructure is there in the form of car-parks, signposts indicating walking routes, footpaths, footbridges and stiles. Excellent maps indicate rights of way and there are large areas where walkers know they can wander freely. There are plenty of guidebooks for walkers. 

And Connemara? Except for the tiny National Park around Letterfrack, virtually nothing has been done to facilitate walkers. The absence of any legal framework to allow access to the countryside means that walkers can be turned back by landowners for any reason or none. This is bad enough of itself but it also means that little or no infrastructure can be provided and even authors of guidebooks face the unhappy prospect of having to abandon routes if any local landowner objects. 

All these deficiencies stem from the lack of a legal framework. And this stems from the failure of Mr Ó Cuív, the Minister charged with facilitating access to the countryside, to take any effective action to curb the power of landowners. He can try to cajole farmers till the cows come home, but until he challenges them he is wasting his time and depriving Ireland of a profitable source of income. - Yours, etc, 

ROGER GARLAND, Chairman, Keep Ireland Open

 

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 - Letters 

Access to the countryside 

Madam, - 

The report of the expert group to examine and make recommendations on the legal issues of land access for recreational use is an important contribution to our debate. 

Mr Eamon Ó Cuív, Minister for Community , Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, established Comhairle Na Tuaithe in 2004 to address the three priority issues of (1) access to the countryside; (2) developing a countryside code; and (3) developing a countryside recreation strategy. 

Significant progress on these matters has been blocked by the question of access, land ownership and financial payment. Meanwhile rural tourism stagnates and existing access to the countryside is being curtailed. 

The expert group consisted of a senior counsel and officials from the office of the Attorney General, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Legislation is required to clarify the position. 

Labour's Access to the Countryside Bill 2007, published this spring, anticipated the findings of the expert group and serves as the basis for a sensible and measured discussion about how we can proceed together (www.labour.ie/policy/listing.html). Farming organisations, particularly the IFA, should now show constructive leadership on this issue. 

Without legal certainty Comhairle Na Tuaithe cannot implement its National Countryside Recreation Strategy. 

Failure by farming interests to make progress on this issue now that we have the expert group's report will be bad for rural Ireland's economy, bad for tourism and a major setback to the hundreds of thousands of Irish men and women who simply want to enjoy the countryside of their native land. - Yours, etc,

 RUAIRI QUINN TD, Dail Eireann, Dublin 2

Ruari Quinn (First on left) at KIO's AGM 2008 

 

KIO AGM 2008 - Chairman's Address by Jackie Rumley, President KIO. Also in picture, Roger Garland, Chairman KIO and Minister O'Cuiv, guest speaker

Friday, July 20, 2007 - Letters 

Access to the countryside 

Madam, - 

While the reaction of the IFA and other farming organisations to the report of the expert group on recreational access to the countryside set up by Minister Ó Cuív is profoundly depressing, it was, I suggest, historically predicted. 

The Irish Land League was set up in the 19th century with a primary aim of abolishing "landlordism" in Ireland and enabling tenant farmers to own the land they worked on. It is with sadness I quote the negative thoughts of one of the Land League leaders, Matthew Harris, when he said: 

"When the farmers would be emancipated and get their lands, such men would look on the boundary of their lands as the boundary of their country, because farmers as a rule are very selfish men." 

Given the negative attitude of the farming organisations to reasonable proposals for recreational access to the countryside it would seem that his prediction has proved true, and a new "landlordism" is alive and well in 21st-century Ireland. 

In my opinion, the Minister has little choice but to follow the radical approach taken by the 19th-century Land League. He must legislate now for the right of our citizens, and visitors, to enjoy our recreational heritage, just as Michael Davitt fought for the economic rights of the current landowners' predecessors. - Yours, etc,

 MIKE KEYES, Greenpark Avenue, South Circular Road, Limerick. 

(c) 2007 The Irish Times 

Saturday, July 21, 2007 - Letters 

Access to the countryside 

Madam, -

 I found it depressing to read your Editorial of July 16th, "Walk this way", because I know it reflects accurately the state of affairs concerning land access in Ireland. I would urge Pádraig Walshe and the IFA to reconsider their position and look no further than the excellent leadership displayed by Joe Rea in 1986/87 when he put sectional interests to one side and acted in the common good. 

Mr Walshe and IFA leaders should be aware that they have title to their lands today because of the Land Acts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They came about as a result of Parnell's and Davitt's Land League agitation of the 1870s and 1890s.

One of the local leaders who suffered as a result of this campaign was my great grand uncle, Henry O'Mahony of Ballydehob. He was one of the leaders imprisoned under the Coercion Act of 1881. On release from prison after two years he was forced to sell his farm at Kilcoe at great loss and emigrate to Texas. The freedom of the American West suited him and he ended up with a large cattle ranch in the north-west Texas Panhandle. 

Last year my wife and I travelled there for the 100th birthday of his granddaughter. While there the same freedom was afforded us and we were able to ramble the pathways and headlands of the O'Mahony and neighbouring ranches. There were no restrictions or charges and we were made welcome everywhere. 

Mr Walshe and IFA leaders would deny us the same rights in Ireland. I doubt that Parnell, Davitt, O'Mahony and others made such sacrifices 130 years ago for this state of affairs to apply in the Ireland of today.

 Farmers of today have made great benefits from our EU membership. All that is being asked of them now is to apply the same conditions regarding land access to hills, mountains and uncultivated land as applies in the other member-states. Failure to do so could very well mean that they will be remembered in history as a worse lot than those awful greedy absentee landlords they replaced. - Yours, etc, 

HENRY QUIRKE, Skeagh, Schull, Co Cork. 

(c) 2007 The Irish Times 

Monday, July 23, 2007 - Letters 

Access to the countryside 

Madam, - 

The last sentence of your perceptive Editorial "Walk this way" (July 16th) certainly hit the nail on the head. Referring to the obdurate attitude of the farming organisations to countryside access, it states: "If a group of absentee landlords were involved, there would be no question of shilly-shallying." 

A strong case could be made that Irish farming organisations now present a similar case to their absentee landlord predecessors in the 19th century. Present-day farmers have the law entirely on their side, are totally heedless of the common good, have no regard for those in their midst who might want to improve their lot (in this case rural folk who might want to diversify into agri-tourism) and are the benefactors of huge largesse for which they do not have to lift a finger. 

It is apparent to everyone who has had to deal with them that enticements only lead to further demands - apparent, rather, to everyone but the relevant Minister, Éamon Ó Cuív. After three years and more of shilly-shallying, it is high time he appealed over the farmers' heads to the general public and then introduced suitable legislation to give recreational users legal rights to access land.

 Anything else is a waste of time. - Yours, etc,

 NOEL BARRY, Secretary, Enniskerry Walking Association, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow .

 (c) 2007 The Irish Times 

 From Autumn 07 Newsletter

 We recently received a complaint that South Tipperary County Council have blocked off the 6km footpath section of the Tipperary Heritage Trail between Golden and Cashel from 1st October to 31st March because of what is described as 'flooding'. It's hard to believe that this path is blocked for so long (presumably each year) and why the council consider that no similar flooding could occur at any other time. It looks like a case of the council covering its back and to hell with the public. 

This is not the first time that a county council has blocked off one the very few public rights of way in this country. You may recall that Wicklow County Council blocked off the entire 5km of the Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk because of the subsidence of a few metres near Greystones. The least that would be expected in both these cases is that the council would warn walkers that they walk this route at their own risk. Better still they might take action to eliminate the hazard. We have asked South Tipperary County Council for an explanation and have suggested that they take steps to ensure that this section remains permanently open.

Thursday, August 2, 2007 - Opinion Farmers need work no more 

To enter the weird world shown to us this week by Teagasc's National Farm Survey is a bit like wandering around a fairground hall of mirrors. Nothing is what it seems and reality appears as a series of increasingly grotesque distortions of itself, writes Mary Raftery . 

Thus we are presented with the truly remarkable statistic that Irish farmers earn virtually nothing (a mere 2 per cent of their income) from the sale of farm produce. How can this be, you ask. Surely farmers exist to produce food and sell it to us. 

Such notions are strictly confined to children's storybooks. As every Irish farmer has long known, and the rest of us are only beginning to realise, farmers in fact exist in order to get money from Europe. 

The National Farm Survey tells us that the average farmer in this country now earns a whopping 98 per cent of his or her income from direct subsidies. Roughly two-thirds of these payments to farmers come directly from the EU, with one-third being provided by the Irish exchequer. 

The amount paid by the Irish taxpayer is set to increase in coming years, as we are expected to shoulder ever greater amounts of the financial load of supporting the lifestyles of Irish farmers.

 Most of what comes from Europe is called the Single Farm Payment, and is paid out regardless of the economic activity of the farmer. It is based only on what was produced in the past. In other words, you can now get a great big pile of money for producing absolutely nothing. 

This new way of paying farmers, introduced in 2005, was called "reform". Everyone seemed to think it was a good thing. Up to that point, farmers had been subsidised on the basis of what they produced. So the more productive they were, the higher their subsidy. This in turn resulted in vast excesses, the obscene butter mountains and wine lakes. 

So, to stop farmers producing too much food, it was decided to sever (or "decouple") the link between subsidy and production. Farmers would now receive their money regardless of what they produced. In other words, they get money for nothing - at least in theory. 

The proportion of farmers' incomes shelled out directly by the Irish Government is made up of a number of different schemes. The most notorious of these is called the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, which is largely a great wheeze whereby we managed to have almost the entire country declared "disadvantaged" in order to get money from Europe. The joke of course is now on us - with the European contribution diminishing over time, we have to pay more and more of this ourselves. 

The only other equivalent for the transfer of such large amounts of money from the State to any one group of people is through the various social welfare schemes. These at least have the virtue of being accurately described as designed to assist the needy. 

The subsidies for farmers, on the other hand, masquerade as an entirely normal part of agricultural activity. It would perhaps be more honest to state baldly that farmers in this country are almost wholly dependent on social welfare payments. It is these farm social welfare payouts that are negotiated under the national wage agreements, where they go under the grandiose title of the Rural Development Programme. 

Last year, in the charade that constituted the farming element of the social partnership talks, the Government fell over itself to beg the farmers to accept almost €7 billion under this fund. 

There was no concept of farmers giving anything in return, not even a willingness, for instance, to allow the taxpayers who support them so generously a right of access to cross their land while walking in the countryside. 


In the Byzantine world of Irish agriculture, it is strange but true that some sectors would actually make more money if they entirely ceased all economic activity. This applies particularly to beef and sheep producers - the National Farm Survey tells us that almost 150 per cent of their income comes from State subsidies.

 Confusing as it may appear to be able to earn more than 100 per cent of your income, what this in fact means is that these sectors make significant losses from production, which are then covered by a part of their subsidies. 

However, since the subsidies remain static, the elimination of production would mean that the income of these farmers would actually increase. 

And if that is not bizarre enough, next year's survey is likely to present us with the most extraordinary reality of all. Year after year, the amount of direct subsidy as a proportion of farmers' incomes has risen. It is now only a matter of months until more than 100 per cent of farm income across the board will come from subsidies.

It will then be official - Irish farming is a profoundly uneconomic activity, surviving only on the backs of taxpayers. We need to start asking tough questions about exactly what we are paying for and why. (c) 2007 The Irish Times

8th January 2008 - LETTERS 

Walking to Combat Obesity 

Madam, - 

Kate Holmquist's article "Off the Scales" (Weekend Review, January 5th) puts great emphasis on encouraging walking to combat obesity. Walking can be enjoyed by practically everyone, young and old, and costs very little.

 Ideally everyone, except those living in cities and large towns where it is impracticable, should be able to find a nearby path, provided where necessary, with stiles, signposts, and footbridges. We are so far from that here that Failte Ireland can only aspire to having a walking route in every county! Worse still, many of the existing routes are on busy roads, and we can expect little more from any new routes. (We note incidentally, that 20% of the road deaths here are pedestrians; how many were people who had nowhere else to exercise?) 

So where has this ideal been achieved? Well, it's close enough to achievement 100km east of Dublin. In Anglesey, a county smaller than Dublin, there are 1,000km of pathways with all accompanying infrastructure. The same applies all over England and Wales and in many other countries in Europe. 

The basic cause of Ireland's paucity of suitable walking routes is an obvious one: the utter failure to tackle the powerful farming lobby by forcing farmers to accept a reasonable network of paths through their lands. Also, in your issue of January 5th, Noel Whelan lauds Michael Martin for taking the seemingly powerful smoking lobby. We all now benefit from his courage. When is the same courage going to be shown on this issue? - Yours, etc.

 Roger Garland Chairman Keep Ireland Open, Dublin 14 

Monday, January 21, 2008 - Letters 

Access to the countryside 

Madam, - 

With reference to Roger Garland's letter of January 8th, walking in Northern Ireland can be equally difficult. Here is what Robert McCahan, the local historian born in Ballycastle in 1863, has to say in a 1923 pamphlet about getting the short distance between Ballintoy harbour and Whitepark Bay (now National Trust property) in Co Antrim:

 "Whitepark Bay can be reached from the harbour (at Ballintoy) along the foot of the chalk cliffs during the ebb tide passing several caves in the limestone and also viewing the large number of partially submerged rocks which strew the coast." 

In fact the route on foot is only marginally tidal, but this is the not the main issue. A local farmer is now attempting, possibly for reasons not directly to do with access, to block the shoreline at each end of this section of the North Antrim Cliff Path, which includes the Giant's Causeway, and close the existing stiles across two wet green fields. Moyle District Council states publicly that it has no legal right to intervene and has passed the buck to the CAAN (Countryside Access and Activities Network). This demonstrates the apparent inability to protect even traditional, well-established footpaths. 

How far Northern Ireland lags behind the rest of the UK can be read (on the internet) in the paper on access to the Northern Ireland countryside by the Council for Nature Conversation and the Countryside. 

This is not to overlook the active goodwill and generosity of most farmers in this area. - Yours, etc,

STEWART HOLTERMAN, Co Antrim. 

(c) 2008 The Irish Times 

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 - 

Editorial :Welcome step 

WE LIVE in a wonderful country with marvellous outdoor amenities. Many species of fish can be caught within the boundaries of Dublin city; the quality of bathing water and beach facilities has generally improved; the number of sailing and motor boats is rising and determined efforts are being made to improve long-distance walking and other facilities in the Dublin/Wicklow Mountains. 

For the past number of years the Wicklow Uplands Council, with financial assistance from Fáilte Ireland, has worked to improve old walking routes and signage along the Wicklow Way and St Kevin's Way. Now, it is joining with Coillte, local Dublin councils and other bodies in planning and developing outdoor recreational facilities through a Dublin Mountains Partnership. A recreation manager will be appointed, along with a mountain ranger service, and it is hoped to provide facilities for walkers, cyclists and horse riders on Coillte lands. Unfortunately, the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) has withdrawn from the scheme. 

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and South Dublin County Council will contribute €100,000 over the next three years while Coillte has secured funding for capital projects. Connections from Dublin to the Wicklow Way will be upgraded and canal walks developed for less energetic people. Specially designated facilities will be provided for mountain bikers, scramblers and horse riders from a safety point of view and to avoid conflict with other users. Tourists and local people will be encouraged to make greater use of the area. 

Coillte should be complimented for its active involvement in this and other outdoor pursuits projects. As a profitable commercial State company, it manages nearly half a million hectares of forest countrywide. And it welcomes nearly 18 million visitors a year to 11 forest parks and 150 recreational sites. Not only that, it is developing new recreational facilities and showing clearly that making money from commercial woodland does not exclude the encouragement of tourism. 

The number of hill walkers coming to Ireland has fallen dramatically in recent years because of difficulty in accessing upland areas. At the same time, walking tourism in Spain, France and other European countries has expanded rapidly. Small local hotels, B&Bs and restaurants are losing out on this lucrative business here at a time when other employment is becoming hard to find. Coillte's easy combination of commercial and recreational usage makes sense. Farmers should consider the needs of the wider community. 

(c) 2008 The Irish Times Friday,

 June 13, 2008 - Letters 

Farmers and hill-walkers 

Madam, -

 The final sentence of the Editorial "Welcome step" (June 10th), which discussed well-meaning attempts to open up mountain areas near Dublin to recreational users, caught our attention. It read: "Farmers should consider the needs of the wider community." 

The farming organisations have made it abundantly clear over the years that they are as likely to do this as Attila the Hun is of turning up at a victim support meeting. They are determined to concede not a square inch on access to the countryside unless their outrageous financial demands are met. Not only do they not consider the wider community but they do not even consider the desire of their own rural community to diversify into agri-tourism. 

We have long given up the hope that the Government will take on the farmers. However it could have gently reminded them of the billions they have got from European and increasingly from Irish taxpayers; of the need for suitable walking routes to promote health and safety; and the implications of walking tourism, where Ireland attracts less than a quarter of the revenue of its great rival, Scotland. 

Until the Government gets tough we will continue to lag decades behind our neighbours, and all of us will suffer the consequences - including, ironically, farmers themselves. - Yours, etc, 

ROGER GARLAND, Chairman, Keep Ireland Open

 Friday, June 13, 2008 - Letters 

Farmers and hill-walkers

 Madam, - 

Your editorial of June 10th is misinformed and misleading. The IFA has never been asked to participate in the Dublin Mountains Partnership. Neither have we withdrawn from any walking or recreational schemes in the Wicklow or Dublin mountains. 

The IFA has said on many occasions that farmers are prepared to play their part in developing walking facilities. 

The recently launched walks scheme by Minister Éamon Ó Cuív is a clear indication of farmers' willingness to be part of a network of walks throughout the country. The walks must be approved to the Waymarked Ways standard. A walkways manager has been appointed under this scheme in Wicklow and we look forward to working with him. 

The IFA, along with Leader, Coillte, Wicklow County Council and a number of other bodies including the Wicklow Uplands Council, is a full partner in the Wicklow Outdoor Recreational Strategy. The objective is to develop a strategy for outdoor recreation in the county through partnership. 

Lest there be any ambiguity, I would like to remind your readers that farmland is private property and public access must always be subject to the consent and goodwill of the farmer. - Yours, etc,

 DECLAN O'NEILL, Wicklow Irish Farmers Association County Chairman

(c) 2008 The Irish Times 

EMAIL:

Sent: Wednesday, June 04, 2008 - From UK 

Subject: Scarcity of Public Footpaths in Ireland

My attention has come to the existence of your organisation via Mr. Roger Garland's letter in the summer edition of "Walk" - the magazine of the Ramblers Association. I was particularly drawn to this as my wife and I, together with our two dogs, have very recently visited Ireland for the first time and, regrettably, were extremely disappointed with the holiday which we had due to the almost complete lack of public footpaths and/or public access.

We stayed in the Wicklow Mountains National Park and it seemed to us that with the notable exception of the walking opportunities at Glendalough the countryside is effectively closed to walkers. Apart from some signposted routes along gloomy and boring forest tracks the only other readily evident paths were the Wicklow Way and St.Kevin's Way - both of which appeared to have much of their routes along tarmac. We ventured into Offaly, imagining from tourist information, that the Slieve Bloom area would offer some enjoyable walking but once again found that the area was dominated by dense conifer forest and that the Slieve Bloom Way is, in fact, a walk on the tarmac roads which pass through it.

We most certainly will not be returning to that area of Ireland but did wonder if we should, on another occasion, make the long trip over to the West Coast to see the undoubtedly beautiful scenery and, perhaps, have better walking available to us. However, in view of what I have since discovered about access throughout Ireland, it is now unlikely that we shall bother.

Good luck with your campaign to improve access to the Irish countryside - especially for the sake of those who live in Ireland but I'm sure that you need, if possible, to bring pressure to bear on Tourism Ireland to make them understand that many "would be" visitors must be put off as they do not just want to see the countryside from their cars - they actually want to be able to get at it! Until that happens, I am sure that Ireland will miss out on the revenue which a lot of walkers would bring with them.

John Wharton South Staffordshire, England.

JULY 6th 2008 IRISH TIMES "HEAD TO HEAD" SHOULD FARMERS BE PAID FOR ACCESS?

I was the spokesperson on the NO side in this debate. The question was 'Should farmers be paid for access?' It was not 'should farmers be paid for damage to their property, invasion of privacy, insurance problems (a red herring), interference in farm work etc etc.' Of course they should not be out of pocket, and where there is persistent vandalism, walking routes should be rerouted or areas blocked off. All these problems (and others) have been sorted out all over Europe decades ago. 

However the farming organisations are making outrageous demands solely for access, something that is unheard of anywhere. They are prepared to do this because they have legal rights on their side and a Government that is afraid to say boo to them. Until recreational users acquire some legal rights, walkers will have no proper infrastructure, hill walking tourism will be blighted, the nation's health will suffer, and pedestrians will be killed on roads. 

Unfortunately in their obduracy the farmers are encouraged by some in the hill walking community, specifically the meekly cringing invertebrates (MCI) who think that being on their knees to beg the farmers for crumbs will wring concessions. Nonsense, it merely leaves them better positioned to get a well-deserved kick in the teeth - as has already happened. If you really want to do something useful I implore you to join Keep Ireland Open, the only national body prepared to campaign for all recreational users.

 David Herman

From Spring 08 Newsletter 

Another beach blocked off

WE HAVE RECEIVED an e-mail from a member in Co Clare who is rightly concerned about developer who is attempting to get the local authority to extinguish public rights of way to a beach. This member intends to take a case to the High Court and has asked us a number of questions, which we have answered to the best of our ability.

 He concludes: 'As a result of a serious road traffic accident, I am a person with "severely restricted mobility" and since the rights of way I am referring to have been closed and obstructed I now find it impossible to access the public beach that I have enjoyed with my family for over 35 years, is there a legal duty on my local authority, and/or indeed, a mechanism in law were I can ensure that my right to access a public beach here in Ireland is maintained?'

KIO comments: We hope this case will not turn out to be typical of the casual way that local authorities treat violations of rights of way, of which the Ugool case, ongoing since 1989 and about which Mayo county council abdicated its responsibilities, is the worst example. 

 Here is a recent e-mail from a member in county Cork

 'Walking today on land I always assumed to have a right of way I was horrified to find my path barred by triple barbed wire. 

Crosshaven is the home of sailing in Cork, a once-sleepy village where we brought up our six children in great freedom and safety. Now it has "taken off" and a big developer is building hundreds of new homes on land through which many generations of adults and children walked to the village from outlying areas. The neighbouring landowner whose strip of magnificent beech woodland, ablaze with bluebells in May, has obviously felt the pinch of encroachment, and has erected the barbed wire fence, although maintaining the friendly style between the next property. So in effect, no children can walk to school any more, and the dangerous traffic at four local schools will continue to grow. 

The following is a recent letter sent to the Irish Times, but not published. It is from an American visitor.

Madam, 

Your recent article, "Is tourism turning rural?", paints far too rosy a picture of Ireland as a destination for the overseas walking community. A walking guide from County Kerry is quoted as saying that "Ireland is a great destination for walkers." Ireland is very far from meeting that description. The international walking community has largely given up on Ireland because of access problems which are unique in Western Europe. In contrast to Ireland, free access to the countryside in the U.K., for example, has resulted in substantial tourism benefits. The Scottish Land Reform Act of 2003 resulted in a walking tourism boom in that country which in 2006 accounted for Ł3.6bn (€5bn) in tourism revenue. 

You describe the scheme to pay farmers up to €3,000 annually for allowing walkers as an "access breakthrough." So far from being a "breakthrough," this palliative will do little to improve the overall problem. It is another example of the government's bowing to the perceived strength of the Irish Farmers Association, which is dead-set against any fundamental solution to the need for access to the countryside. See the website of Keep Ireland Open for a description of the lamentable situation which has existed for many years in the Republic.

 Despite misgivings I spent two weeks on walking holiday in Ireland two years ago. First on my itinerary was to circumnavigate Gougane Barra lake in County Cork. This walk is described in every Irish walking guide ever published about this area. At the top of the walk was an ugly new fence, blocking the way. That stopped my hike. I could have gone through, but there is nothing new about confrontations between walkers and Irish farmers - sometimes resulting in assault, as the walking community well knows. Until Ireland opens its countryside as has every other country in western Europe, Ireland will see only a fraction of the tourism benefits. You may indeed lure walking tourists who don't know better - but only once.

  Email: 

A woman running a trekking centre has emailed us with the usual problem of what she thought were rights of way turned out in effect to be no such thing, since they were blocked off by locals. She says, 'I totally agree with you that these farmers are extremely short-sighted. I live in North Tipperary and am facing the uphill task of attracting tourists to what is a beautiful and unspoiled area. [...] So, like many others who live in remote rural areas, I do not want to be seen to be actively 'stirring up trouble' over rights of way and in addition my business depends on my not being seen as a threat.' 

KIO comments: This woman's livelihood depends on having suitable trekking trails. She enquires if the local council will help her, but in our opinion they will do little or nothing. The other interesting point about this email is that she is afraid to speak out. Those with all the power, that is landowners, are in a strong position to stifle complaints. And so the problem persists.

 

From: Summer 2008 Newsletter 

TOURISM BOARDS GO FOR SOFT SOAP 

The four western tourism boards prefer evasion and downright fibs rather than tell the sad truth about Right to Roam in this jurisdiction

CORRESPONDENCE FROM a would-be walking visitor from the UK has recently come into our possession. The writer intended to come to Ireland and enquired as follows:

What type of areas is covered by Right to Roam legislation (moorland, rough grazing, coast etc)? How extensive is the footpath network in your area? If we do meet an angry landowner what steps will the county council, the police or yourselves take?

With one exception each of the four Tourism Boards he enquired from answered promptly and enclosed a lot of literature, nearly all of it irrelevant. None of them even attempted to answer the question about who to go to if challenged. 

Cork Kerry Tourism required a reminder before replying. After explaining that there is no Right to Roam legislation in Ireland it stated 'Some walkers however who belief (sic) they have a right have crossed private property without permission and this aggravated landowners ...'

Our correspondent, equally aggravated, asked if it would be possible for the tourist board to forward a list of farmers in upland areas, give the locations of their farms and their general disposition so that he could get permission from each of them about the possibility of walking across their land. He answered his own question by deciding to go elsewhere! 

Shannon Development stated that there are no access problems with the walking trails and admitted that there was no Right to Roam legislation in Ireland. 

North-West Tourism merely sent a standard letter and made no attempt to answer any of the specific questions. 

The West Region stated 'With regard to upland walks in the region we have no issues with access as long as walkers are courteous and mindful and observe the Countryside Code of Ethics'. It went on to state that there is no formal Right to Roam policy. This last response is particularly worrying. There is a notorious access problem at Ugool Beach blocking an approach to Mweelrea, two problems in the Bens, and a noted archaeological site in Mayo that it blocked off by the landowner, to name but the most serious. These evasive and misleading types of reply might be fine in the short term to present an acceptable reply but if it is not factual Ireland's tourist trade will inevitable suffer badly. Failte Ireland will be informed and we look forward to their response.

 

KERRY - FIND YOUR OWN - WAY 

A correspondent writes: 

I was walking in the south-west after Christmas and came upon this statement in a leaflet published by the Kenmare Tourist Information Office:

'Kenmare to Castle Cove Road walk it is advised to get a map for this walk as some of the signs have gone missing and are covered up by brambles and gorse'.

It seems therefore to be the case that there are two categories of errant signs: those that have been removed by landowners ('gone missing') and those that are covered by vegetation. In neither case is anyone going to do anything about it. Is this ah-shure-they-can-buy-a-map passivity acceptable in a country that has so few waymarked routes?' She also notes: 'On the Beara Way (and luckily you do not need a map for this walk) each stile has instructions for crossing it. Are we really so stupid?'

A Blast from The Past Email - August 2008

 Thought you might like this snippet from the book 'Malachi Horan Remembers' by George Little, published 1943. This is an account of the stories and memories of Malachi Horan who lived and farmed on Killenarden or Tallaght Hill from I suppose about 1860 - 1945. excerpt from page 15, quoting Malachi Horan.

"The Mass-paths? They were the start of half the rights-of-way in the country. They were often the start of trouble too. The landlords hated them. They were just the short cuts for the people and they going to Mass. There is one by the door here than runs from Killenarden to Callaghan's Bridge (Fort or Bohernabreena Bridge), nigh on Bohernabreena. In my father's time the landlord here - McGrane it was - tried to close the way. He was a sore man on the tenants. But my father and some neighbours got the law of it. they were advised to pull down every fence he put on the path, and that when he took away the stepping stones over the stream to put them back at once. This they did time and again. After many a row they won their way. McGrane was beat. There was a poet - Frank Sheridan - who lived on the hill here and he wrote a ballad on the head of it. I have only one verse of it now:

'Sucess to Pat Horan and likewise Miley Keogh Who never flinched a single inch But travelled to and fro. Some went round the limekiln way, More went by Bradley's Lane; And some of them they stayed at home For fear they'd vex McGrane'.

Says it all, don't you think - excepting this is written of an access problem of over 150 years ago - seems we have just changed one set of landlords for another!!!

BD, Co.Wexford.

Irish Times 2 September 2008 - Letters 

Denial of rights to walkers 

Madam, - 

John G. O'Dwyer is right to mention the access problems in Irish upland areas (Go, August 30th). The legal right to responsible access on footpaths is the norm over much of Europe and carefree walking over private land is enjoyed by hill walkers and casual strollers alike.

 Less than 100 kilometres from Dublin there is an area with a dense network of footpaths, complete with stiles, gates, steps on steep sections, footbridges and suitable maps. Landowners are paid nothing for allowing access to their land and seem happy enough about it. This area is called Wales and it is far from unique in Europe and farther a field.

 Nothing like this exists in Ireland and we are all the poorer for its absence. The relevant Minister has spent over four weary years trying to cajole the farming organisations to grant access to the countryside, with predictable results: not an inch without lots of cash. 

The time has come to remind them where their income comes from - the taxpayers of Europe and increasingly Ireland - and to force them to act with some regard for the common good. - Yours, etc, 

ROGER GARLAND, Chairman, Keep Ireland Open, Butterfield Drive, Dublin 14. 

Email 

8 September 2008 New Zealand - 

Maybe things are not as good as we are led to believe !

Hello KIO

I came across your website while researching details of the Kerry Way, which I hope to walk next summer.

Here in New Zealand we occasionally have similar problems of access, though most of our well-known 'tramping' routes are entirely through National Parks. However, fishing access and easier routes to park tracks often run across private land, and at present this can be arbitrarily denied.

New Zealand farmers have similarly opposed recent legislative proposals for improved walking access, an attitude I personally find disappointing as a farmer and tramper. Apparently the 'right to roam' has been established in law in the UK in the last few years, and seems to be working well.

So I wish you well in your campaign! And I hope to have a good look at your beautiful country next year.

Regards Rod

Email 

12 September 2008

Hi A brand new road is being constructed in my locality. I found out recently that there is a "mass Pass" through the field where the new road is going to go. Where do I start my enquiries about whether a Right of Way exists? And if so, how do I find out what the plans are with this new road, e.g. do they intend building a bridge or putting in a pedestrian crossing etc.

Many thanks

DM Co Louth

 

Gomlwoman

Hi

Somewhere on your excellent site about the problems for hillwalkers visiting your country you quote the word 'gomlwoman' and then ask what does it mean. If no-one else has already told you, GOML is short for 'Get Off My Land' - or in a posh English accent 'Get Orff My Land'. Hope that helps.

I am one of many people who wants to visit the summit of all the 2000' hills in the British Isles (which of course includes the whole of Ireland) and the antics of Bull McSharry and the like are frustrating. And I know that there would be many other like-minded people who would want to include Ireland, if only there were clearer access laws.

My experience of farmers I have met in Ireland is mixed - you never know if you are going to be invited in for a cup of tea (or something a little stronger) or sworn at. Some of the farmers have been unbelievably friendly and generous - some have been distressingly rude. It is the uncertainty that is off-putting - do you try to avoid being seen by the farmer waiting at his/her gate or do you walk straight towards him or her for a chat and advice on the most interesting way up the hill?

These days I do most of my hill-walking in Scotland and I take it for granted that I can walk almost anywhere - certainly outside the deer hunting season. Occasionally there are still GOML signs but it is generally quite safe to ignore them. On those rare days when confronted by a Scottish landowner it has been enjoyable being able to say 'I am sorry if I seem to have misunderstood the Access Code, maybe you could let me know how I have misinterpreted it.'

Martin Richardson

 

 

  Fencing into the low water mark at Uggool Beach Co Mayo

 


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