Predictable end to pious hopes
MINISTER Eamon O Cuiv doubtless had the best of
intentions when he announced his ’voluntary’ scheme whereby
landowners would solve the access conundrum in an uncharacteristic
burst of generosity and far-sightedness.
Now that it is plain his hopes have been misplaced, we
need to move to legislate to protect public access without delay. If
Mr O Cuiv is to retain any credibility, he must follow through on his
threat to the farming organisations to the effect that he would
legislate unless they began actively selling his voluntary code.
At a bare minimum this legislation must establish a
reasonable means of establishing a right to walk across private land.
It must protect existing walking routes by registering them and
requiring either local authorities or a commission established for the
purpose to protect them on behalf of the public. It must enshrine the
right to travel freely on the uplands and to access rivers, lakes and
Ideally, legislation would take a leaf from the
Scottish Land Reform Act of 2003, which allows free access to almost
all of the countryside and has been working a treat since its
You’re running out of time, Minister
Minister Eamon O
IT IS now six months since Minister Eamon O Cuiv
announced that he had a plan which would solve 80 to 90pc of the
access problems in the country "within a year".
In the intervening period, neither of the two pilot
schemes—one at Carauntuohill in Co Kerry and another at Mount Gable
in Mr O Cuiv’s own Co Galway constituency—have been completed. The
notion that landowners would "flock" to offer walks once
these pilots were seen to be a success has so far not come to pass.
Despite the warning from Mr O Cuiv to the farming
organisations that he would have no choice but to move to introduce
legislation underpinning a right of cess for walkers unless they
co-operated, there has been little sign so far that his threat has
been taken seriously.
Under the scheme, local communities would voluntarily
establish routes to the uplands, lakes and areas of natural beauty and
historical or scientific interest. They would be given advice on
setting up trails and publicising them by Mr O Cuiv’s Department of
the Gaeltacht and Rural Affairs and Fáilte Ireland would help with
advice on marketing.
See Comment above
Join us at the AGM on April 24
THIS year’s AGM will be held on Saturday, April 24
at the An Oige HQ in
Street, Dublin 7. Business will commence at 11.30am. There
will be coffee from 11am. We have invited Environment
John Gormley to speak on his proposals for updating
rights-of-way legislation – and why these are taking so long to
If the minister cannot attend, it is expected that he
will send one of his senior advisors along to address the meeting in
Your country(side) needs you
We need your time. KIO is now at a crucial juncture in
our campaign to secure the kind of responsible access to the
countryside already enjoyed by almost every other country in Europe.
We need your help on our committee. In particular, we
need people willing to put time and energy into communicating
effectively with the media and our membership; monitoring county
development plans and lobbying councilors to change them so as to
include public access.
We also need volunteers willing to work on the ground
dealing with local access problems and with ongoing problems where
open land has been fenced.
If you think you can help please come to our AGM for a
Walkers welcome in Anglesey
contrasts the generous access to
land in Wales with the position here in Ireland
The sign on the water
barrel outside this house in Anglesey, which has a public pathway
passing the door, says your dog
is welcome to a drink from the barrel and that the house owner hopes
you have an enjoyable walk
Anglesey is about the size of county Dublin and is an
agricultural area with a mixed urban and rural population, much like
However, unlike Westmeath or any other Irish county,
Anglesey has 1100km of rights of way, covering all areas of the county
in a dense network. These rights of way are almost exclusively
footpaths, not as in so many cases here, roads, even main roads,
masquerading as walking routes.
The coastal path, about 200km long, is in excellent
condition, with stiles, gates, boardwalks over boggy areas, steps,
signposts and all the rest. It is enjoyed by a large number of casual
walkers and their dogs. However, off the coastal path conditions are
far from ideal with only 48% of the footpaths usable. The reason is
not that they are blocked by landowners, as you might expect in
Ireland. It is that they have been unused for so long (not surprising
given the extent of the usable network) that many sections have
reverted to nature.
I am in a voluntary weekly work party clearing blocked
footpaths and you’d be amazed how much fun we have hacking our way
through dense gorse, trees and brambles and then installing stiles and
all the rest of the infrastructure. Incidentally, there are 7,600
items of furniture along the existing network: it’s not simply a
case of giving legal rights without making the countryside walkable.
The local council’s aim is to have usable footpaths
available close to every resident’s door; they claim that has
already been achieved for half of the country’s walkers. The council
are also interested in providing easy footpaths for the less-abled
(elderly and those recovering from heart attacks) and have organised a
series of guided walks from seven or so urban centres, every week, all
year round to encourage such people.
The council can and does create new footpaths by
offering landowners the agricultural rate to buy land, which amounts
to a one-off payment of one or a few pounds per square metre. If
landowners don’t like the proposed right of way they can go to
arbitration but since they usually come off worse there, nearly all
settle without argument.
Idyllic, you may say. Certainly by Irish standards, it
is. However this is the norm everywhere in England and Wales and
I am left wondering how it is that two nations with a
common legal history, a similar terrain and close racial ties can
diverge so fundamentally that something that is resisted to the bitter
end in Ireland can be settled virtually without dissent in Wales.
AN increasing number of walkers are becoming outraged
at the damage caused by quad bikers in the countryside and national
parks. If you encounter quad bikers in the Wicklow Mountains National
Park phone the Duty Ranger on 087-9803899.
Please propagate widely.
Germans castigate ‘fortress’ Ireland
Bay used to illustrate German blog which tackles myth of 'open' Ireland
GERMAN outdoor enthusiasts are carrying on an
increasingly strident debate over the lack protections for public
access in Ireland.
Germany has a long tradition of strong laws protecting
the right of public access to nature, to the mountains, lakes and
countryside and a popular German bloggers’ website makes it plain
that visitors to Ireland are not at all impressed at the uncertainty
that they face here.
If you follow the web link:
you will get a flavour of how angry and disappointed some visitors
have become. The article is in German but there is a Google Translator
in the upper left column of the webpage to translate roughly into
German visitors are not alone in their disgust at the
Irish government’s failure to provide legal safeguards for the right
of public access. In recent weeks Keep Ireland Open has received
letters and emails from English and American visitors venting their
frustration at finding routes blocked and a singular lack of action by
local councils or central government to do anything about this.
One letter to Failte Ireland’s walking tourism
manager Eithne Murphy even prompted a response from Gaeltacht and
Rural Affairs Minister Eamon O Cuiv. American attorney James B
Richardson Jr wrote to Ms Murphy in October castigating her for claims
that there were no access problems here. He described his own
unfortunate experiences while trying to walk a popular route at
Goughagan Barra in West Cork and how he and a party of four other
walkers were forced to leave the Dingle Way repeatedly and take their
chances on the busy R559 road because the route has been blocked by
landowners. He added: "I personally will do all that I can to
alert the innocent walking tourists of Europe and America that Ireland
continues to fail woefully as a destination for the serious calking
community because of its refusal even to acknowledge, must less to
fix, the problem of access to the countryside."
Mr Richardson’s letter comes as a growing number of
British walkers have been contacting Keep Ireland Open to complain
about the lack of clarity regarding access and the shortage of walking
guides and the kind of signage normally found in other European
Farewell to KIO stalwart Eddie
We are sorry to have to record the death of Eddie
McGrane, a staunch supporter of KIO and someone who was always
prepared to assert the right of walkers to enjoy our priceless
heritage of mountain, seascape and countryside.
Eddie’s life was intimately tied up with An Oige, an
organisation to which he devoted his considerable talents. There is a
story of two Jehovah Witnesses arriving on his doorstep in Dublin. The
two emerged some time later, without having made a convert but instead
weighed down with loads of An Oige literature!
Eddie’s An Oige trips to all parts of the world were
legendary and his attention to detail and formidable organisational
skills meant he could manage large groups in even remote, third-world
We extend our condolences to his widow Ressa.
Ramblers hold the line
A MOTION for the Irish Ramblers to rejoin the MCI (now
Mountaineering Ireland) was defeated by a large majority, so large
that no count was taken.
The Ramblers left MI a couple of years ago because of
that organisation’s failure to take a stand on the need for access
The proposer was someone who is employed part-time by
MI. MI President Joss Lynam was at the AGM, for only the second time
in the history of the Ramblers, but seems to have proved singularly
Growing anger over €4 per walker charge
€4 per walker to
reach eskatarriff mountain (above0 via the popular Cummeengeera ridge
ANGER is growing over a farmer in Kerry who is
charging €4 per person to gain access to a popular mountain ridge
Dan Healy and his family have also been accused of
demanding money from walkers who walked the route from other starting
points but passed over his land on their way back.
The Healys describe the charge as "a parking
fee" but this is plainly untrue since they levy it on each person
arriving at their remote farm and have been known to demand €20 from
the driver of a car with five people aboard. The Healys farm on one of
the main access routes to the popular Cummeengeera horseshoe walk,
which takes in a number of spectactular mountains, including
Eskatarriff, Bireca and Lackabane.
One KIO member who was accosted by the Healys
described their attempts to make him pay to walk as "a ridiculous
scam". Joe Wilson, who lives in Enniskerry, says he and his wife
were Liz refused to pay up after they drove down the lonely boreen a
kilometre west of Lauragh on the Kerry side of the Caha mountains.
"It is nothing less than extortion that walkers
are harassed for money just to access this popular route," says
Joe. "I would encourage anybody walking it to refuse to pay and
to say why – because the mountains are part of our national heritage
and nobody has the moral right to charge for access to them."
Other walkers have spoken of being afraid for the
safety of their vehicles if they refuse to pay.
Most of the Cummeengeera horseshoe does not pass over
the Healys’ land. They merely own land over which walkers pass to
reach the ridge.
You’re our eyes and ears
IF you know of walking routes which are being blocked
or closed please let KIO know. We need to constantly update our data
base so that we can make the government, local councils and Failte
Ireland aware of the extent of the problem. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Landmark case adjourned again
The land mark case over the closure of the popular Old
Coach Road route in the Glencree Valley has been adjourned again until
April 13 over a legal technicality. The
judge will rule on that day over whether or not the Attorney General
needs to be brought into the case. He will then set a date for the
full hearing to proceed. Landowner Joe Walker is sueing two members of
the Enniskerry walking Association, chairman Niall Lenoach and
Secretary Noel Barry, in his bid to close the route.
Access officers – the names you need to know
WHEN you run into an access problem, your first port
of call should be to your local Rural Recreation
Officer. He or she will be grateful for any updates regarding
access and will usually approach the landowner in question to see if
there is a problem which can be solved.
Here is a list of the current RROs:
Ann Lannigan (tel: 057 8661900 or 086 8447338; email email@example.com);
Deirdre Kennedy (tel: 071 9141138, Fax 071 9141162;
mobile 087 6695808);
Martin Dunn (tel: 0906 488292; email firstname.lastname@example.org);
Maria Munckhof (tel: 066 9472724 -064 41930; mobile:
087 2957780; email: email@example.com;
Con Ryan (tel: 062 33360; mobile 087 0556465; email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
James O’Mahoney (tel: 023 34035; mobiles 0870556465
and 0870556465); email: email@example.com;
Pat Mellon (tel: 0404 46977; mobile 087 7888188)
Thomás Mac Gearailt (tel: 091 593410/091 523945;
mobile: 087 0521339) email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
Tom Carolan (tel: 094 9366692; mobile: 087 2196930)
Eimear McCarthy (tel: 094 9366692; mobile: 086
0495041); email: email@example.com
Published by Keep Ireland Open. KIO is an
environmental organisation dedicated to preserving public access to
our mountains, lakes, seashore and countryside.