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.
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
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.
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.
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
Subject :Access Problems around
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.
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
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
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
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. -
KATHLEEN FORDE, Iveragh Road, Gaeltacht Park, Dublin
(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
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 -
Walking in Connemara
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,
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 -
Access to the countryside
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
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
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
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,
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.
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
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.
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.
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
(c) 2007 The Irish Times
Monday, July 23, 2007 - Letters
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."
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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?)
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.
Chairman Keep Ireland Open, Dublin 14
Monday, January 21, 2008 - Letters
Access to the countryside
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,
STEWART HOLTERMAN, Co Antrim.
(c) 2008 The Irish Times
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
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
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,
13, 2008 - Letters
Farmers and hill-walkers
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."
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
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.
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
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
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
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
2008 The Irish Times
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
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
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.
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.
following is a recent letter sent to the Irish Times, but not published.
It is from an American visitor.
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
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.
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
From: Summer 2008 Newsletter
TOURISM BOARDS GO FOR SOFT SOAP
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.
merely sent a standard letter and made no attempt to answer any of the
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
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
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
"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!!!
Irish Times 2 September 2008 - Letters
Denial of rights to walkers
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.
8 September 2008 New
Maybe things are not as good as we are led to believe !
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
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.
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
DM Co Louth
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
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.'
into the low water mark at Uggool Beach Co Mayo
Má theastaíonn uait muid a chur ar an eolas maidir le
fadhb ar bith i do cheantar cuir ríomhphost chugainn le do thoil ag
Ábhair Aighnis |
Conas Clárú mar Bhall |
Roinnt Fadhbanna |
Déan Teagmháil Linn