been ignored for far too long
that only one party in the recent general election saw fit to even
mention reform of our outdated, inadequate access law in its manifesto
(see story, back page) is an indication of the enormous task we in
Keep Ireland Open face.
are, at the centenary of the 1916 rising, with more rights for the
citizens of this republic to go walking in her majesty's
England, Scotland, Wales - indeed the whole of Europe - than in their
only the Green Party even saw fit to commit in their election
manifesto to changing this shameful
state of affairs.
Before Profit have mentioned the need for change in policy documents,
but made no commitments to campaign for it in their election
the Labour Party, too, not a word about access. The party could not
even bring itself in the last Dail to support a modest Bill by one of
its own backbenchers, Robert Dowds, to make creating public
rights-of-way slightly easier. If passed, it would have brought Labour
to the position reached by the British Labour Party in the 1930s.
and Fianna Fail share an almost identical refusal to recognise the
need to free up public access to our countryside, hills, rivers, lake
and sea shores. Yet if Ireland is to realise its potential as a
walking, cycling and outdoor pursuits destination, or to secure the
basic rights of the 95pc of us who are not farmers or substantial
landowners, that will have to happen.
all renew our efforts to make our new governemt aware that change is
long overdue; that what has been left out of thier party manifestos
can no longer be left off the political agenda.
Cut knee action a threat to
Wall: seeking damages for a cut to her knee
case of a woman who is suing sue the National Parks and Wildlife
Service over a cut to her knee which she suffered while walking the
Wicklow Way is causing concern in outdoor activities circles.
taken by Teresa Wall (59) was heard at the Circuit Civil Court in
Dublin on February 1. Judgment has been reserved.
Ms Wall (pictured above) of Swords, Co Dublin, told
the court that she slipped and fell after her foot snagged in a hole
on the boardwalk section of the Wicklow Way near the JB Malone
monument. She said that the wound needed seven stitches and left her
with a scar. She sought €60,000 in damages
barrister Peter McParland said the wooden walkway where she fell
constituted “a structure” and the Occupiers Liability Act imposed
a much higher duty of care in the maintenance and management of it
than for an ordinary landowner who simply allows passage over
walker or other leisure user has successfully sued a landowner for
injuries since the passage of the Occupiers’ Liability Act in 1995.
This law was introduced to protect landowners against such claims.
if Ms Wall were to be successful it could have a disastrous effect on
Ireland’s already paltry level of access because it would mean that
any stile, path, boardwalk or bridge provided to assist walkers would
have to reach an impossibly high standard or it could put landowers at
risk of being sued.
such an impossible legal imposition, there would be a danger that many
landowners and state bodies would play safe and further restrict
Ireland Open has always taken the view that walking is a risky
business and, within reason, we must all take responsibility for our
own safety. You can read a copy of the Irish Times report on the case
on both KIO’s Facebook page and this website, www.keepirelandopen.org
Don't forget your
Ireland Open's AGM will take place on Saturday April 2 at the An Oige
Headquarters, Mountjoy St, Dublin 7. Coffee
and tea will be available from 11am and the meeting will open at
11.30. There is free secure parking at the rear of the building and
tokens for entry into the car park will be available at reception.
coast path highlights how far behind we are
There are no plans for a walkway or
cycleway around Ireland
has been a signed coastal path around the whole of Wales since 2012
and around the whole of Scotland since 2003
how far behind our immediate neighbours Ireland has slipped when it
comes to providing access has been underscored by the recent
announcement that England is well on the way to providing walkways all
around the English coast by 2020.
This will involve
completing a succession of walkways which to link 11 existing coastal
paths to form a continuous national trail.
Western side of the trail will link into the Welsh coastal path around
the whole of Wales, which was completed in 2012, and both West and
East paths would link into Scottish pathways at their Northern ends.
The whole of Scotland’s coastal land has been fully open to the
public since the passing of the ambitious 2003
Land Reform Act. This will mean that there will be continuous
walking path around England, Scotland and Wales by 2020.
Rory Stuart, the
English Conservative minister with responsibility for completing the
project, is himself a keen long-distance walker who wrote a
best-selling travel book about his hair-raising trek across war-torn
Afghanistan. He has said he is absolutely determined to complete the
coastal path scheme on time and he has managed to persuade the British
cabinet to significantly increase funding to ensure he succeeds.
the English Coastal Trail is completed, it will add 2,790 miles to the
more than 200,000 miles of pathways already available in England –
and that does not include the 8pc of the landmass which has been given
over to National Parks, which all have open access.
English CROW (Countryside Rights of Way)
Act 2000 gave the 'Right to Roam' over an extra 4
million acres of mountain, moor, heath and down. To put that in
perspective, all of Ireland amounts to just 20m acres.
comparison, has about 16,000kms of walking routes, many of them
permissive and which can be closed at any time. About 1pc of the
Republic’s land mass is given over to National Parks. Much of the
land above the foreshore of Ireland’s coastline remains in private
hands, with no right of access.
This despite the
fact that Ireland has some of the most beautiful and dramatic coastal
scenery in Europe. Yet there is no plan to open it up to walkers and
provide the kind of walking facilities to be found across the rest of
To get some idea
how far behind Ireland is when it comes to coastal walks, it is worth
recalling the fate of the Horn Head walk in Donegal.
This was launched,
with great fanfare, in 2011. Tens of thousands of euros were spent by
Failte Ireland and Donegal County Council installing a car park,
signage, fencing and a successful publicity and advertising campaign
at home and abroad.
Funding was also
provided through the government Walks Scheme to 18 local landowners to
provide maintenance along the pathway, which ran over commonage and
private land. Much of the ‘maintenance’, it should be noted, was
notional rather than real.
Within a couple of
years, the Horn Head loop had become the most popular walk in Donegal,
bringing a substantial tourism spend to hard-pressed Dunfanaghy.
Walkers came from the continent, the US and a number of visitor guide
books on Ireland gave the walk rave reviews.
local landowner decided he was withdrawing from the walks scheme.
Despite pleas from a number of people in the locality, he did so and
the whole route has had to be closed.
Large amounts of public money were invested in this walk and it
brought substantial amounts of revenue and spin-off jobs into the
area. Yet, incredibly, there is no political will to face down the
landowner responsible or to legislate to prevent similar acts of
sabotage in the futue.
It is also worth
recalling the fate of the beautiful walk above Uggool
beach in Co Mayo (see Autumn newsletter), which has been closed
since 1989. The landowner responsible, Gerard Burke, is now
advertising guided walks over it – at €15 euros per adult and a
tenner for a child.
Then there is the Seven
Arches area near Portsalon in Co Donegal. As reported in your
last Newsletter, this favourite scenic spot along the much-heralded
motoring route the Wild Atlantic Way has also been sealed off from
public access in recent months. Have a guess what the State or local
authorities can do, under the present legal dispensation, to re-open
it. You probably guessed right. The answer is nothing. As outgoing FG
minister Paschal Donoghue told the Dail in October, access to the
Seven Arches is privately owned and the government has no power to
create access or insist that it be maintained.
about a real Wild Atlantic Way?
It is a measure of
how confused Faile Ireland has become over its whole tourism offer
that it asserts in communications to community groups by Failte
official Mary Stack that they need to focus on providing opportunities
for adventure ‘off the beaten track’. Strange that when visitors
have virtually no right to walk on most of the country’s tracks –
beaten or otherwise.
And what is
Failte’s biggest tourism offer? Why the opportunity to drive around
the whole island in a car, looking at the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’
through their windshield. How does that tie-in with their call for
tourism which takes visitors ‘off the beaten track’?
Why isn’t Failte
pointing out how far behind our lack of rights on the question of
access is leaving Ireland and how difficult this makes their task of
competing for walking, cycling and other outdoor activity
A real Wild
Atlantic Way would take visitors and our own citizens off the roads,
out of their cars, and along a series of clearly-signed walkways and
cycleways. If they can do this in England, where far more of the
coastline is not only privately-owned but also much more densely
populated, why not here?
Once again, you
probably guessed the answer: Because there is not the political will
to legislate to create and preserve a public right of access. All
those advertisements luring visitors here to enjoy our wealth of
ancient monuments and beautiful scenery are posited on a tissue of
lies. Most visitors have no idea that they really will not have the
kind of rights of access that they enjoy in other countries. Neither
Failte Ireland or any other government agency is willing to own up to
Ireland’s dirty little secret. Namely, the public has virtually no
rights of access.
Losing the Head
Bray Head: No route up it listed
in Co Wicklow Draft Development Plan
Bray Head, one of
the most popular walks in the country, does not, it seems, have a
right of access.
Council, in its Draft Development Plan, lists nine ‘possible’
rights-of-way in the county (yes, just nine in the whole of ‘The
Garden of Ireland’) and the various routes around Bray Head are not
included. The plan does mention Bray Head in a section on coastal
‘cells’ and even says that there are rights-of-way over it.
However, the Draft Plan does not identify these routes in its paltry
We are trying to
persuade the Council to facilitate a looped walk from the car park at
the foot of the Headat the South end of Bray promenade, to the Cross
on the summit of the head, to the Bray-Greystones Road, to Windgates
Road and ending on the cliff path.
nine proposed routes listed in the draft plan is slightly better than
nothing. Planners at Wicklow’s County Buildings were refreshingly
honest when tackled at a recent public meeting about the extent to
which they felt let down by councillors when they tried to list and
protect dozens of routes
in the early ‘90s. Quite simply, the councillors caved in completely
following objections by the farming organisations to the
identification of any routes over their land.
listing just nine routes in the most-walked county in the country and
leaving out one of its most iconic routesfrom its list is taking
timidity too far. It’s worth remembering that the council identified
110 proposed rights-of-way in just the
North East of the county alone during their attempt to list them a
quarter of a century ago. They haven’t gone away, you know!
rules as main parties turn blind eye on the hustings
The only political
party in the general election to make a manifesto commitment to
improving public access to the countryside was the Greens.
All of the others
– Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein, Renua, Independents and, even
more shamefully, the Labour Party and Social Democrats, whose largely
urban base does not require them to butter up the farming
organisations, had absolutely nothing to say in their ‘offer’ to
the public about the fact that Ireland has the worst and most
regressive public access laws in Europe.
The Greens were
the only and honourable exception. In their manifesto they committed
to establishingan absolute freedom to roam over mountain commonage and
other areas of rough grazing. They also pledge to introduce a law that
would enable all routes which have been walked without hindrance for
12 years by the public to be designated, mapped and protected as
public rights of way.
need a charter for walkers
Reports from the
Dail have made it plain that a huge effort was made by the Fine Gael
Minister in the last government, Simon Coveney, to make sure that a
charter for farmers was completed before the recent election.
you know how essential it is to sew up those crucial marginal rural
The charter sets
out the rights of farmers with regard to inspections, the payment of
grants and subsidies.A Farmers’ Charter of Rights Monitoring
Committee, staffed from the public purse by civil servants, has now
been established under an independent chair to monitor agreed targets
and standards. This unusually craven charter will last until 2020 and
a special monitoring committee has been set up to ensure that the high
standard of service given by the government to farmers continue to be
met – last year 97pc of farm grants were paid on time.
Given that farmers
now make up less than 4pc of the population, would it be too much to
ask for a Charter for Recreational Users? It could monitor access. It
could create routes where landowners are unreasonable and selfish. It
could look after the interests of the 96pc of us who pay the taxes
that are handed over to this special interest group which receives
very special treatment.
Officers : a who's who
Recreation Officers have been appointed to look after walkways around
the country and to iron out problems where they can, given the lack of
legislative backing for their work. The following is the latest list
with their names first, the Leader Programme employing them, the walks
they are responsible for and their contact details.
Walk / Trail
Kilkenny Leader Partnership
Valley, Freshford Loop, O'Gorman's Lane
Local Development Company ltd.
Way, Sliabh Liag
9744937 or 087-9318077
Community & Enterprise Development Co Ltd.
8661900 or 087-7749281
Sligo LEADER Partnership Company ltd.
Way, Miner's Way
9141138 or 087-2431942
Integrated Development Company
Valley, Rinn Duinn, Miner's Way
66 30252 or 087-2775373
Integrated Development Company
Valley, Rinn Duinn, Miner's Way
66 30252 or 086-7713550
Kerry Development Partnership ltd.
Way, Cosán Cuas na nEighe, Hag's Glen Loop at Carrountoohill,
9761615 or 087-2031034
Tipperary Local Development Company ltd.
a 'Chnoic, Birch Hill, Knocknalough (Red Hugh), Slieve Feilim
Way, East Munster Way, Lough Derg Way, Tipperary Heritage Way,
Devil's Bit, Kilcommon Pilgrim Trail
Cork Development Partnership
Islands, Duhallow Way, Beara Way, Sheeps Head Way (including
Whiddy Island Walk)
Connemara ltd. (Galway)
Connemara, Western Way
593410 or 087-7375599
West Mayo Development Company ltd.
Way, Clogher Loops, Burrishoole Loop 1, Burrishoole Loop 2,
Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail
Clare Local Development Company ltd.
Way, Wood Loop Ballyvaughan, Black Head Loop, Cliffs of Moher
6866800 or 086-8122030
Published by Keep Ireland Open. KIO is an
environmental organisation dedicated to preserving public access to
our mountains, lakes, seashore and countryside.