12th July 2000 Newsletter

NATIONAL ISSUES

PLANNING BILL
The new Planning Bill has now passed all stages in the Oireachtas. In spite of an immense effort by KIO and the assistance TDs Alan Dukes and Eamonn Gilmore and Senators David Norris and Mary Henry we failed to effect any improvements to the Bill. The net effect of the changes in the law could well make the creation and maintenance of rights of way more difficult. Time will tell.

RURAL DEVELOPMENT FORUM
Frank Winder attended the first meeting. We will seek to have KIO issues on the agenda.

FREEDOM TO ROAM
The long awaited Bill covering this issue is presently going through the British Parliament. We are monitoring the situation and will probably wait to examine the bill in its final form before lobbying for something similar here.

COUNTRYSIDE ACCESS SCHEMES IN NORTHERN IRELAND
The Dept of Agriculture(NI) have published several booklets on access to the countryside. These are very useful publications and are way ahead of anything we have achieved in the South. The booklets are available free of charge from: The Access Unit, Environment and Heritage Service, Commonwealth House, 35 Castle St Belfast BTI IGU. Tel 01232 546553.

4th ANNUAL MARATHON WALK – GALWAY WALKING CLUB –
Saturday, August 19th 2000 The starting point for this IVV recognised walk is the car park on the approach to Oughterard at 730am. Transport by bus from there to starting point at Lennane. Walk ending opposite Hill of Doon, Oughterard. Please support this KIO event. For further details contact Tom Rae at 093 35523 Fax. 093 35224

AGM

Our AGM which took place in January resulted in the appointment of the following officers:

President – Jackie Rumley 098-36144
Chairman – Roger Garland 01-4934239
Vice-chairman – Seamus Mac Gearailt 01-2840322
Secretary – Michael Carroll 01-4943221
Treasurer – Frances Donoghue 01-2836551
Membership Secretary – Kitty Murphy 01-8378594
Campaigner – David Herman 01-2984821
Committee – Kay O’Sullivan, Tony O’Sullivan,01 837 4440 Frank Winder. 01 497 0016
Connaught Committee – Tom Rea (Chairman) 093 35523 and Michael Murphy (Sec) 098- 25068

Our thanks to outgoing chairman Seamus Mac Gearailt and Jacinta Moore who served us so well as Treasurer since our foundation.

Pages 2,3 & 4 of the Newsletter are mainly devoted to highlighting an accumulation of access problems throughout Ireland and includes comments from the media, farming organisations and tourists.

Keep Ireland Open is an environmental organisation dedicated to the preservation of access to our heritage of open mountains and countryside.

A HUNDRED THOUSAND WELCOMES?
Access Difficulties - The Cases & Comments

The following pages outline currently unresolved access difficulties, most of which have been taken up by KIO. If you have any views on the issues raised please contact any committee member or Email us at; info@keepirelandopen.org As you will readily see all these cases are serious and in only a few of them has the local authority or any other body taken effective steps to deal with them. In the context of a country which is trying to develop tourism this situation is serious and getting worse. We would also like to emphasize the random nature of these problems. They can arise unexpectedly so that walkers and others wishing to access the countryside do not know from day to day where or why they might be accosted.

Malin Head, Co Donegal
On a trip organised by Bord Failte in November 1999, a British journalist with his wife and young daughter was attacked by a man wielding a knife when they attempted to walk on a local beach. The case has been settled in court in favour of the plaintiff. However, there is no guarantee that the fine of £400 and the 2 month suspended prison sentence imposed will deter the defendant. While accepting that this is a one-off case the light fine is hardly a deterrent. Who would now walk on this beach under the circumstances?

Gleniff, Co Sligo
Gleniff is a valley at the centre of an attractive mountain circuit including Ben Whiskin, one of the most spectacularly shaped mountains in Ireland. After the publication of a book of walking routes in 1993, two of which were in this area, objections were raised by two local landowners. This is in spite of the fact that the major route of the two had previously been described in a walking guidebook as long ago as 1979 and that there was therefore a strong case that a right of way existed. People who have attempted to walk in the area or even park their cars in the valley have been threatened. A hill walker who was physically assaulted by one of the landowners took his assailant to court (4 April 2000). This resulted in a fine of £200. As far as we know the local authority has done nothing about this problem though the local tourism interests had unsuccessful meetings with the farmers concerned. This fine has of course not settled the problem as the landowners involved have vowed to continue to keep hill walkers out.

Benbulben, Co Sligo
In August 1999 a group of French tourists, who were staying in accommodation run by a farming family and who were led by an Irish leader, were verbally abused and threatened with a stick while attempting to approach the Benbulben plateau by the memorable Pinnacle Gully. The route used had been described in a walking guidebook as far back as 1979 and in several editions subsequently. The gardai and the local tourism organisation has been informed. This is only one of a number of incidents involving this landowner.

Uggool, Co Mayo
In 1989 a popular beach near Louisburgh was illegally fenced off (the area so fenced is below the mean high water mark and therefore in theory in State hands). In spite of numerous protests, Mayo County Council did nothing about the problem for 5 years and then claimed that because this time had elapsed, they were not allowed to take any action. KIO brought the case to the Ombudsman, who directed that Mayo county council take urgent steps to re-open the beach. This case is ongoing.


Fencing at Uggool beach.


Fencing on rocks at Uggool beach.


Uggool Beach, denied to public use for 10 years (to 1999)

Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim
Recently intimidating notices have appeared at the lower end of this short popular walk near Manorhamilton, even though this section of the walk is on the Leitrim Way, a long distance path, supposedly open to the public.

Scelp, Co Mayo
This path on the slopes of Croagh Patrick was blocked off by a local landowner. Though it is part of a long distance walk and was lauded in Mayo’s tourism magazine, the council have taken no action to re-open it. They have even queried if it is a right of way, in spite of the fact that it has been a pilgrim path since early Christian times.


Green road and fencing at Scelp, Westport.


Fencing at Scelp, Westport, blocking access to east ridge of Croagh Patrick.


South of Croagh Patrick. The river is fenced on both sides, with outer fencing also.

Kylemore, Co Mayo
A walk along the southern shore of this scenic lake, described in a guidebook as long ago as 1988, has been blocked off by impenetrable fencing and offensive notices.

Delphi, Co Mayo & nearby Areas
The road between the Mweelrea Mountains and the Ben Gorm range to its east, in an exceptionally scenic area, has been fenced on both sides for miles so that access to open mountain land is impossible. Discussions are ongoing with the landowner involved and with the local authority, so far without result. Similar fencing has been erected on scenic roads between Leenane and Maam Bridge and the ‘bog road’ between Roundstone and Clifden.

Gleninagh, Co Galway
In spring 1999, the landowner at the entrance to this valley in the Twelve Bens forbade parking on his private road (justifiably) and also erected notices barring entry to his land, the bogland part of which is essential if one is to either walk the Gleninagh circuit, one of the finest hill walks in Ireland or to access Carrot ridge, one of our most spectacular rock climbs. The case was referred to Galway county council and is ongoing.

This sign errected by one farmer now denies access to Gleninagh, opening into the east side of the Twelve Bens mountain range in Connemara.

This has long being a famed hillwalking area and KIO regards the closure as being compleately illegal. There has always been a track up the valley and over the col into Glencorbet. The rock climbs below Bencorr feature in The Twelve Bens Hillwalkers and Rockclimbers Guide ( ed. Joss Lynam) , issued by the Federation of Mountaineering Clubs of Ireland. Climbers, therefore should take note that these climbs have been shut away and it is not known what the FMCI are doing about the situation.

KIO is renewing its strong representations that have been made to the Galway County Council that it act immediately against the perpetrator.

Glaninchiquin, Co Kerry
The area at the end of this valley in the Beara peninsula is the starting point for a popular mountain walk, described in a Gill and Macmillan guide book as long ago as 1978. This area has been ‘developed’ by the owners who are over punctilious about persons who wish only to gain access to the mountain area and have no interest in the ‘development’. The letter quoted here is from a distinguished historian and writer. Both the county council and South West Tourism took a serious view of this incident and promised to contact the owner, but we have heard nothing more.

The Great Southern Trail
An attempt by a local tourism group to develop 85km of the old railway line between Limerick and Tralee, at present owned by CIE, is being frustrated by local landowners, seemingly afraid of the disturbance that might be caused by walkers. Such projects have been successfully completed in other countries without causing local opposition.

Sugar Loaf, Co Cork
A walking route up the southern side of this spectacular mountain in West Cork, described in walking books as far back as 1978, and in a German language guide ‘Wanderwege in Irland’ in 1993 has been blocked off by the local landowner. Cork county council has taken no action in spite of protests.

Three Castles Head, Co Cork
This popular walking area has been barred to walkers by intimidating signs claiming that the ruins on the headland are in a dangerous condition. While this may be true we consider is that what is needed is a disclaimer on the buildings themselves; the sign in its present location seems to be a convenient excuse to block access.

The Old Head of Kinsale
The owners of this area are insisting on charging climbers for entry to this area, in order they say to pay for compensation. The terms of the planning permission for developments in this area stipulated that access should be granted to the public.

Slyne Head, Co Galway
Reports have been received of a large area around Slyne Head being fenced off with threatening notices.

Lankill, Westport Co Mayo
KIO has been in contact with Duchas about the recent closing off of access to this monastic site.

OTHER ISSUES - GENERAL & ELSEWHERE

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association Notices: These notices are widespread though they are not usually located in prime walking country. After referring to the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1995 they finish with the words in large capitals ‘UNAUTHORISED ENTRY IS PROHIBITED’. ICMSA representatives have claimed (implausibly) that these notices are not intended to block access to walkers.

Archaeological Problems:
We are aware of two sites, one near Westport, the other near Kealkill, in west Cork, where persons wishing to visit are warned off by verbal abuse and threatening notices respectively, for no apparent reason. Duchas, the government body responsible, seem to have adopted a ‘do nothing’ policy. We have carried out no study on this aspect of the access problems.

And in Other Countries ……
For England and Wales, the Government is bringing forward legislation to allow the public to freely access an additional 4 million acres of open, privately owned land. In Scotland the local parliament, with the backing of all three major parties, has a draft bill before it ‘granting access everywhere, including cultivated farmland, forests, riverbanks and the coast’ (Guardian 22 April ’00). In Northern Ireland, a discussion document has been published which is intended to help open up privately owned land to the public and to extend the already extensive network of rights of way.

And Lastly ……
Jim Devlin, the secretary of the IFA’s environmental and rural development committee rejects completely the notion that the problem is widespread "We are talking about a couple of isolated incidents," he says. "With some of these it would still happen no matter what code or law was in place. There is nothing we can do about them."’ (Sunday Tribune 5 September 1999).

KIO Contacts
President – Jackie Rumley 098-36144
Chairman – Roger Garland 01-4934239
Vice-chairman – Seamus Mac Gearailt 01-2840322
Secretary – Michael Carroll 01-4943221
Treasurer – Frances Donoghue 01-2836551
Membership Secretary – Kitty Murphy 01-8378594
Campaigner – David Herman 01-2984821
Committee – Kay O’Sullivan, Tony O’Sullivan,01 837 4440 Frank Winder. 01 497 0016
Connaught Committee – Tom Rea (Chairman) 093 35523 and Michael Murphy (Sec) 098- 25068

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