power shows the way
clear indications that Kerry County Council will use Compulsory
Purchase Orders to ensure that a disused railway line can be used to
establish a greenway on the Ring of Kerry is a step in the right
council’s plan shows that Labour Environment Minister Alan Kelly is
now thinking along the lines laid down in the Bill to improve public
access which was debated in the Dail 20 months ago. That Bill,
brainchild of Labour TD Robert Dowds, has been marooned in the Dail
Environment Committee, where Fine Gael are ensuring its extinction.
the proposed Bill’s logic is being applied by Minister Kelly, who
knows that many excellent cycle and walking routes have been occupied
by farmers claiming State land through the adverse possession law
(‘squatter’s rights’) which enable those who occupy a
length of disused railway line for 12 years to claim ownership
blatant theft of State property should be opposed by any possible
means, including compulsory purchase wherever vacant possession has
come to pass.
Mr Kelly’s admirable wish to facilitate cycling ‘greenways’ begs
an important question: If we can CPO for greenways, why not also for
other walking routes?
Which in turn
begs another question: Why have Alan Kelly and the Labour Party in
government failed to back Robert Dowds' modest and eminently sensible
Bill to facilitate such a move? Saying that improved access was not in
the agreed programme for government won't wash. If it can work for
greenways it can work for walkways.
CPO threat will test minister's resolve
Minister Alan Kelly cycling on the
plan for a 27kms greenway from Glenbeigh to Renard in Co Kerry is
hanging in the balance because agreement cannot be reached with a
small minority of landowners through which the route would run.
cycle and walking route along an old railway line will lose its €4m
in funding from central government and the EU unless it is completed
by the end of 2016.
what it describes as “a last resort”, Kerry County Council says it
will proceed with Compulsory Purchase Orders in order to complete the
route. The Council’s chief executive Moira Murrell told a council
meeting in late February that all attempts to persuade landowners
opposing the greenway have failed. The CPOs were suspended in December
to facilitate further negotiations but these have made no progress.
The council now feels that it has no option but to proceed with
CPOs against 10 landowners out of a total of 120 who own farmland
through which the greenway would run.
landowners have been supported in their opposition by the Irish
Farmers Association. The central
objection seems to be to the amount of money they would receive
from the proposed CPO.
some of the land in question has been acquired by farmers who occupied
the rail line for 12 or more years after it ceased to be used,
claiming ‘squatter’s rights’.
let’s see if Kerry County Council proceeds with its CPOs plan or
caves in to threats of legal action which would seek to assert that,
since a greenway is not ’essential infrastructure’, the need to
cannot prevail over private property rights. Environment
minister Alan Kelly supports the Council's move.
AGM is on Saturday, April 11
Ireland Open’s Annual General Meeting
will take place on Saturday, April 11 at
the An Oige headquarters at 61 Mountjoy Street
Dublin 7. Tea and coffee will be served from 11am and the
meeting will open at 11.30.
would like as many members as possible to come along and have their
two-course lunch costing €12 will be available in the An Oige café
and free secure parking is available at the rear of the building.
... What problem?
Times walking expert shoots himself in the foot
O'Dwyer (right) with former IFA chief John Bryan
DID any readers
notice the absurd contradiction in the two pieces by John G O’Dwyer,
the Irish Times walking ‘expert’?
On Thursday, January
22, O’Dwyer wrote that there is no need for legislative change to
facilitate public access in Ireland as this would be “using a
sledgehammer to crack a nut”.
Just two days later,
in the Times Saturday magazine, John G wrote a piece describing a walk
from Bennetsbridge in Co Kilkenny to Kilkenny City, following the
banks of the Nore River. However, he warns readers that towards the
end of this walk you will be forced to leave the route and trudge out
onto a dangerous road, which is totally unsuited to walking.
Why? Because the
route has been blocked off due to an access dispute with a landowner.
second piece, with its hilarious contradiction, had been published
Keep Ireland Open had responded by email to his earlier effort. The
Times published the letter, which follows:
G O’Dwyer states (IT January 22) that the lack of access to the
Irish countryside “is not the problem” when it comes to attracting
walking tourists. He then goes on to say: “Of course, it would help
the development of walking tourism if access to the countryside could
about wanting it both ways.
assertion that the closure of more than half the B&Bs around the
country is the big problem for would-be hillwalkers is to put the cart
before the horse. The B&Bs are closing for a variety of reasons
but paramount amongst them is the small number of tourists walking
Ireland’s hinterland. Why? Because there is no certainty as to where
they can walk.
does Ireland have the networks of paths, and pedestrian bridges or the
choice of walking books or established routes to be found in every
other European country. Why this lack? Because of uncertainty over
access - an uncertainty born of political cowardice and narrow
succession of governments, including that of self-declared hillwalker
Enda Kenny, have continued to make a fetish of extreme property rights
over the common good – the good not only of visiting tourists but
our own citizens. A modest Bill by Labour backbencher Robert Dowds TD
was introduced in the Dail 20 months ago. It was designed to make
establishing rights of public access easier. It is currently breathing
its last having been quietly suffocated in the dark recesses of the
Fine Gael-dominated Environment Committee.
that and you will realise how ridiculous it is for John O’Dwyer to
claim that legislating for change would be “using a sledgehammer to
crack a nut”. After years of the “softly-softly” approach to
farmers, it is becoming obvious that only a change in the law will
looped walks established with the aid of Failte Ireland around the
country are indeed welcome. But they are a tiny fraction of what is
needed if we are to open the country for walkers and to make it
possible for them, as many of them want to do, to walk from place to
place. It is a sobering thought, but the insignificant county of
Hereford in England has almost as many free-to-walk miles as the 26
Counties. Meanwhile, the whole of Scotland and most of Wales is open.
for John O’Dwyer’s assertion that there are virtually no access
problems here, he really should get out more. Keep Ireland Open has
dozens of disputed routes on its books. Close to my home here in the
Glencree Valley in County Wicklow, Dublin’s lungs, I can take him to
six disputed long-standing routes within a couple of miles.
assumption of the three monkeys position may buff up his image with
Failte Ireland, who also take the unconvincing “problem? What
problem?” line but it ignores the issue.
is not open for walking tourists. Until it is, tourism will continue
to move to the towns. Or to countries more welcoming to walkers and
debate is heating up
Great Western Greenway:Mentioned as Irish Times letters teased out
The access debate
received an airing in the letters page of the Irish Times in December
and January. The issue was raised initially in a leader on December 12
which pointed out that limited public access to Ireland’s
mountainous and other scenic areas meant that we are unable to compete
with Scotland or Wales for the growing walking tourism sector. It went
on to call for legislation to solve the problem.
This led to no fewer
than 18 letters, some hostile to the need for change but the vast
majority supporting it.
On December 18 Keep
Ireland Open Chairman Roger Garland pointed out that Walk magazine,
the official publication of the English Ramblers, singled out Ireland
has having the least walker-friendly legal regime in the whole of
Europe. Referring to the
fear that Irish politicians have of falling foul of the farming lobby,
he continued: “Farmers represent less than 4pc of our population. An
aphorism mentioning tails and dogs comes to mind.”
Also on December 18
John Mulligan of Boyle in Roscommon rounded on Irish politicians for
failing to understand the needs of walking tourists. “They don’t
understand the potential of our hundreds of miles of canal and river
navigation towpaths or our disused railway lines. They don’t
understand the need for long trails and instead they favour short
routes going from nowhere to nowhere so that TDs can be seen to
deliver funding locally.” In an excoriating letter, he concluded:
“Clearly our politicians have a lot of catching up to do before
tourism policies match the realities of the market.”
The next day
(December 19) Sean MacCann from Co Tyrone played the tired old “How
would you like people walking through your garden?” line. In a
letter bereft of imagination, he asked: “Can you imagine the
outraged reception, both social and legal, had I attempted illegally
to march my family over a fence onto a private lawn in Foxrock to have
a picnic?” He then went on to rail against “well-heeled
suburbanites” seeking access to other peoples’ land.
On December 20, a
short letter by Justin MacCarthy from Sandymount in Dublin echoed John
Mulligan’s sentiments, blaming our lack of necessary access
legislation on the incomprehension of politicians as to what is needed
and the benefits it would bring. “At worst, they regard the outdoors
as a branch of hippiedom. They could not possibly have any
understanding or appreciation of the economic benefits that flow to
the providers of such trails and the advantages to the physical and
mental health of the users.”
On the same page,
Robert Dowds, the Labour TD whose Bill to improve access is still
languishing with the Fine Gael-dominated Environment Committee,
pointed out: “We get 750,000 tourists each year who want to walk in
our beautiful countryside. They and Irish walkers, are far too
restriced in terms of where they can walk.”
Also on December 20
came a letter all the way from Vincentia in Australia. Tadhg O Foghlu
wrote to point out that many of the people opposing Greenway
developments in Ireland were landowners with land adjoining the
disused rail lines to be used for the greenways, adding: “Generally
these people are farmers who can’t seem to differentiate between
their own land and public land adjoining their property.
This failure to differentiate has on occasions extended to
squatting on public property and suing for adverse possession.”
A few more letters
on very similar vein followed over the next week, including one from
Bill Bailey which claimed that Ireland is exceptional in never having
had an abundance of rural footpaths. This drew a response from Kevin
Warner of the Enniskerry Walking Association saying: “Many of the
old ways our grandparents walked have been lost in recent decades.
These ways need to be revived, protected and added to through
progressive thinking and progressive legislation.” Kevin went on to
describe how a FAS survey in North County Wicklow in the late 1980s
and early ‘90s identified 110 rights of way then in use and all
verified by local people. Not one of them is in the current Wicklow
Development Plan and most have disappeared over the last 20 years. He
compares this to just one county in England, Hereford, which lists
4,415 rights of way covering 3,360kms.
His view was echoed
by Ken Ward from Gorey in Co Wexford, who said: “Most Irish country
people of 70 years or so can clearly remember dozens of . . . mass
paths, church paths, fisherman’s paths and well paths, now mostly
gone. Our forefathers were not idiots and had no intention of walking
five miles if they could use a path and do the journey in two.”
The debate ended
with an Irish Times walking writer shooting himself in the hiking boot
(see story above).
Ireland Open also debated the access issue on Today
with Sean O'Rourke on RTE1 Radio on
Monday January 2nd with current IFA President Eddie
Downey, who took his usual "not an inch" line on
public access rights but then clearly hinted that yet more government
subvention "might help" to solve the issue. That would, of
course, be in addition to the 80 % of the average farm income already
coming from the taxpayer.
long wait continues on two fencing issues
An Bord Pleanala continues to sit
on two rulings which may have profound effects on the vexed question
of illegal fencing.
one key ruling, the Bord is still reserving its ruling in the case of
industrial-style fencing placed around much of scenic Fenit Island in
Co Kerry. This hideous structure, which has made much of the island
inaccessible to the public, was erected by landowners who claim it is
exempt development and does not require a planning application.
locals and Keep Ireland Open claim, understandably, that it does.
Bord has twice delayed making a ruling, which it has now been
considering for more than a year, and we have recently written to ask
second case concerns fencing on Howth Head in an area long used by
put the Bord's decisions in both cases on our Facebook page and the
Keep Ireland Open website as soon as they become available.
Meanwhile, we would like to thank all of you who sent in
instances of fencing on previously open land. Much of this fencing
is being erected without the necessary planning
permission and KIO continues to push for its removal in most
also endeavour, through regular inspection of planning applications
made to a variety of councils,
to keep an eye on what is being proposed in relation to fencing
and other activities.
To assist in this we need to recruit helpers in many of the counties
outside the Dublin area. Please contact us if you can help.
urgently require help from planners or people interested in this area.
Please get in touch. Even a little help would be appreciated.
A few successes in the battle
against unnecessary fencing.
Co Galway: Galway
Co Co has finally started the process of requiring the top barbed wire
strand of a lengthy fence which has been the subject of a dispute to
be replaced with plain wire. The council is also ordering landowners
to erect stiles at regular intervals along it to facilitate walkers.
at Dulough, Co Mayo: Plans
for an intrusive fence in this scenic and environmentally sensitive
area have been rejected by Mayo County Council.
call on rights-of-way listing
is the last chance for sending in traditional walking routes to be
listed in the Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown Development Plan.
The draft version of the plan has
recently been published and it contains all off the routes int he
previous plans. You can inspect them by going online to www.dlrcoco.ie.
draft plan is also available at
the Council offices at Marine Road, Dun Laoghaire and Main Street,
Dundrum, or any local public library in the DLR area.
a route that you wish to suggest is not already listed then it will
help the council if you send a photocopy of an OS map with the route
highlighted. It should be marked: “For
the attention of forward planning.”
KIO would be grateful if you could also send a copy of your submission
to Roger Garland, 43 Butterfield Drive, Dublin 14.
are in order to DLR Council, who have been the most effective council
in the country for listing and protecting walking routes.
efforts put their neighbouring county, Wicklow, to shame. Despite
having a great deal more countryside, mountains, seashores, lakes and
National Monuments in their catchment area than Dun Laoghaire, Wicklow
have been one of the most backward councils in the country when it
comes to listing and protecting rights-of-way. Efforts by KIO to
persuade them to change their ways have failed, despite the county’s
dependence on tourism and the life-blood of day visitors from Dublin.
us on Facebook
Open now has a Facebook page where we intend to tease out access
issues on a regular basis.
We hope this
new addition will encourage younger people to join in the debate on
access and inform themselves and each other on this important issue.
It’s future access for them that matters most.
Page also now has a donate button for those wishing to help fund our
Feel free to
join us on Facebook and to have your say and join in the great access
Recreation 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.