Newsletter No 38
The leopard won't change its spots, Minister
As our lead story reports, Minister O
Cuiv says he will solve 90pc of access problems within a year. First,
let's be clear about what access problem he is talking about. He is not
going to deal with rights-of-way in the lowlands: that problem he has
handed over to Environment Minister John Gormley, who in turn might just
force county councils to list rights-of-way.
No, what Minister O Cuiv is
talking about is freedom to roam, so he intends to sort out the areas to
be covered (mountain, bogland etc) and the limited permissive routes
which he believes would be sufficient to get walkers to rough grazing
land where they could presume a freedom to roam.
If achieved, this would be a
huge step in the right direction, particularly for hill walkers. So how
does he intend to proceed? The Minister insists that it will all be done
by voluntary means. He intends to offer farmers a few sweeteners but his
aspiration (it would be an exaggeration to call it a scheme) will depend
upon persuasion. Unless landowners, usually farmers, come up with an
initiative, nothing will happen.
More worryingly, Mr O'Cuiv insists
that the persuasion for farmers to play ball with him must come from
the farming organisations - - the same people have spent the last five
years resisting every possible plea to take a more reasoned and
imaginative approach to the problem of access to the countryside.
Even in a changing economic climate, with the burden of grants
to agriculture falling more and more on Irish taxpayers, the farming
organisations show a myopic and grasping attitude. To believe that
they will belatedly accede to the ministers power of persuasion is a
triumph of hope over experience. Worse, Mr O'Cuiv now proposes to
waste yet another year in which he could at last take on the farming
organisations and push for the only real solution: legislation of the
type enjoyed in almost every other European country.
solve access problem within a year, says O'Cuiv
The Minister with
responsibility for solving Irelands access problem now insists that he
can 'solve' 90 per cent of the difficulties within a year".
Minister Eamon O Cuiv also
hinted that unless the farming organizations help to sell his
proposals, he will have no option but to legislate for access.
Mr O'Cuiv offered a few
sweeteners to landowners but none of the substantial funding which the
farming organisations have demanded.
Among the sweeteners, landowners
who sign up will receive full indemnity against damages claimed by
anybody injured on their land. Their REPS (Rural Environmental
Protection Scheme) subsidies would also be protected in the unlikely
event that these were cut due to damages caused by walkers.
The Minister's proposals depend
upon local communities arriving at their own voluntary schemes to
provide access to hills and mountains with landowners agreeing to a
local ' right to roam' on rough grazing and upland areas. They could
then receive help in marketing routes in their area in a bid to
attract walkers and other recreational visitors.
Mr O'Cuiv stressed that
the only funding available to landowners would be a small amount to
ensure that access routes and paths were kept clear and equipped with
necessary stiles and signage.
The two main farming
organisations, the IFA and the ICMSA, were non-committal when the
Minister asked them to co-operate at a Comhairle na Tuaithe meeting in
Dublin on April 30th. They refused to give any commitments when he
asked if they would be willing to promote his proposals.
in EU for access, researcher tells your AGM
access officer with the Scottish Ramblers and KIO president Jackie
Rumley speaking at the KIO AGM
is becoming known as the access blackspot of Europe, according to the
main speaker at KIO's AGM.
Helen Todd, Access Officer
for the Scottish Ramblers, told members that her research into access
problems throughout the EU left her in no doubt that this country has
the worst record in Europe when it comes to defending the right of
access to the countryside.
She said that in her
research paper delivered to rambler organisations throughout Europe,
when they met in Malaga last Summer, she made it clear that Irish
access gets, and deserves, the wooden spoon.
In an informative and
inspiring talk, Helen contrasted the present idyllic situation on
access in Scotland, where all but he most obvious areas are open to
responsible visitors, to the position here.
described how Scotland is currently developing a comprehensive network
of core footpaths complete with infrastructure such as stiles and
footbridges. Recent research indicates that outdoor recreation is
worth £5.2 billion (€6 billion) a year to the Scottish economy.
The meeting, held in the An
Oige HQ in Dublin on April 18th, also heard from KIO Chairman, Roger
Garland, who said that Heritage Minister Eamon O'Cuiv has failed to
deliver on commitments he made at last year's AGM. The meeting also
heard from KIO President Jackie Rumley , who said that Ireland is
denying its own citizens the right to access a huge part of their own
heritage and that we are shooting ourselves in the foot by trying to
sell walking holidays in a land where visitors have fewer rights to
walk than anywhere else in the EU. How can we promote walking holidays
in a land where visitors face being abused or worse for simply walking
innocently on the landscape? He said it was shameful that the people
of almost every country in Europe enjoyed better access to their
heritage than those who live in or visit Ireland. Our politicians
should be ashamed of themselves for their abject failure to put that
right, he said.
The European Ramblers paper on access by Helen Todd is available on
that Gormley Planning Bill will ease rights-of-way logjam
There are growing indications
that Environment Minister is about to legislate to make the listing
and establishing of public rights-of-way easier.
Informed sources say that he
will include new guidelines in his long awaited and much-delayed
Planning Bill due to be published before the Dáil Summer recess. As
things stand the 2000 Planning Act merely says that local councils
'may' list public rights-of-way. Almost every council in the country
has interpreted this as meaning that they don't have to list , and
therefore need not protect, walking routes.
A minimal requirement would
be for Mr Gormley's legislation to tilt the balance back requiring
local councils to play a more pro-active role in both the protection
and listing of rights-of-way. It is also hoped that the Bill will ease
the criteria required to establish a right-of-way.
This might go some way
towards undoing some of the damage casused by the disastrous Collen V
Leonach (Glencree) ruling in which a High Court Judge decided that a
public right-of-way cannot be established unless a landowner has
dedicated it to be so in writing. This judgment, if applied, would
mean that there would hardly be a right-of-way left in the State. We
await developments with interest.
Brí visits the county with a reputation for hostility to walkers
Stolen heritage: Benwisken is just
one of Sligo's access problems
couldn't find a path going up Benwiskin from Gleniff - atrocious
weather- but went up the Miner's Track over three locked gates, lots of
signs re private property, no trespassing etc. Two walkers we met on the
Miner's Track, locals, told us what a nice man 'The Bull' McSharry is
now, whatever settlement he has got.
No problem walking up to
Benwhiskin so long as one asks him! They recommended bringing a bottle
of something or a box of sweets for landowners when looking for
permission to walk on their land. They know a walker from Belfast who
has been walking the area for years and keeps several bottles of wine
and boxes of sweets in the boot of his car, gifts for landowners. An
Irish solution to an Irish problem?
'One walker keeps gifts for landowners in his car'
Lots more unauthorised access,
private property etc on the eastern side of Gleniff, including an
interesting well-worn bit of graffiti on the road: 'Don't be a sitting
duck. Watch out for Roger Gralnd(sic)'
At the South end of the valley,
near the Trosc Mór Transmission road (I don't see why that road has
to be blocked by a locked gate either) a McSharry Private Property no
trespassing sign, complete with his logo, but there's also a Land Sold
sign there at the gate. The whole thing is outrageous, unbelievable
and very depressing, more so since I read up the positive coverage
McSharry got at the time.
get far enough up the path to see any sign, again because of the
weather, but the beginning of the path coming off the N16 is overgrown
and looks completely unused.
Culeenmore beach: Visited
Pegeen Doyle and Hugh MacConville. Lovely people. They brought us round
the path where a fence has the been erected on the foreshore by Sligo
County Council. Peigeen and Hugh hope their court case regarding this
disputed right of way will come up this year. It doesn't seem a black
and white case to me but I'm no expert.
Dalan de Bri is a director of KIO
and our Irish language expert.
Our last paper newsletter was
mistakenly labelled Spring 2008. Apologies for the confusion, We have
now caught up on ourselves.
asked to probe Irish access
MP Kathy Sinnott has recently
put a question to the European Commisssion regarding the lack of
access in Ireland. Her move follows a meeting with a KIO delegation
held in Dublin Airport in Mar 23rd.
The question asks why there is
such a huge disparity in access rights between countries such as
Ireland, Scotland and England and why Ireland, despite its sparser
population, has such poor access rights. It then asks
the Commission comment on access to the countryside across Europe? Are
there any plans for action in this area? The
question was submitted on May 6th. An answer is expected within six
receiving 86 pc of income from the taxpayer
Many members of KIO were
gobsmacked by the proportion of farm income that came from the
taxpayers of Ireland and Europe in 2006: a whopping 98%.
According to the more recent
Teagasc National Farm Income survey for 2007, the amount has fallen -
to 84 % of income. That's right: on average just 16% of farm income
comes from producing and selling things.
And be warned. The Irish
taxpayer will be expected to pick up the tab for all of this largesse
in 2012 when EU subsidies for our farmers will cease. Given their
myopic attitude to access, we are entitled to ask: What do the farmers
do for all this generosity?
KIO will intensify its campaign
in the next year or two for cross-compliance. This would do as they do
in England: make reasonable access a condition of receiving public
money. You can access the Teagasc survey at
Note from a
am one of many people who wants to visit the summit of all the 2000ft
hills in Britain and Ireland and the antics of Bull McSharry and his
like are frustrating. I know that there would be many other
like-minded people who, like me, would want to include Ireland if only
there were clearer access laws (KIO comments: the laws on access are
unfortunately all too clear: recreational visitors have no legal right
to step unto private land).
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 I met in Ireland 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 in Scotland there are still GOML (get off my land) signs
but it is generally quite safe to ignore them. In Ireland you just
can't be sure.
Martin Richard (UK address supplied)
We have sent a questionnaire to
all political parties and independent MEPs on their attitude to
access. We hope to have the results posted on our web-site a few days
before the elections
New map shows the way
At last a new map of South
Dublin and the North Wicklow mountains shows many of the trails, old
roads and access routes either missing or hard to locate on almost all
the maps that have gone before. Produced by East West Mapping www.eastwestmapping.ie
, 1:30,000 sheet covers the mountains as far West as Blessington
and Mullaghcleevaun and costs €9.95 It offers a totally different
dimension to the maps available up to now, with handy historical notes
on many geographical features. Handily, it is printed on
water-resistant paper and should be available in bookshops and outdoor
shops. The ISBN number is 978-1-899815-23-4.
not hens the problem
Paddy Brennan, who died last year, used to relate a tale of how he
once had to defend a summons in Mayo involving trespass by two or
On one level this is funny
but on another, as our informant tells us, it is an example of the
extreme, even crazed, narrow Irish attitude to land ownership. Our
informant wonders, as we often do, if attitudes have moved on since
Can you help us?
We urgently need help with
our work on county development plans, and heritage plans. This work
would suit a volunteer. Expertise would be great but is not essential.
Ability to use a computer would greatly assist.
If you have any comments on the newsletter or any
other aspect of our campaign or if you would like to describe your own
problems with access to the countryside send correspondence to
The Secretary, KIO, 56 Pine Valley Avenue,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16
or e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Links to Affiliated organisations
Girl Guides of Ireland
Irish Wildlife Trust
If you would like to inform us of any problems in your area please email us at
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