Payout underscores the need for radical reform
at your own risk
predicted in your last newsletter that the anticipated judgment on a
court case in which a walker was seeking damages from the National
Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) was a matter of major concern for
we were right.
judgment has since been handed down in the Circuit Civil Court in
Dublin awarding Swords woman Teresa Wall €40,000 to compensate for a
cut to her knee suffered after she tripped and fell on a boardwalk on
the side of Djouce mountain in Co Wicklow.
NPWS is appealing the judgment, which was handed down by Judge
Linnane’s key finding is that the NPWS had a higher duty of care
towards the plaintiff because it provided the boardwalk on which the
fall took place and even had a sign directing walkers onto it to avoid
their contributing to erosion of the surrounding bogland.
Judge ruled that the NPWS had not properly maintained the boardwalk
and this had contributed towards Ms Wall’s fall.
knows what the results of the appeal will be and the ruling may well
be overturned. Predictably, and sadly, it has already been used as an
excuse by some landowners to argue for further restriction of
Ireland’s already inadequate access laws.
it is worth noting that the judgment is narrow in its focus. It only
applies to maintained structures supplied by landowners and has no
bearing on the normal run-of-the-mill injuries suffered by leisure
users who sprain or break limbs or suffer other injuries from falls.
Some landowners have already threatened to block off routes,
especially those with gates or stiles provided along them.
has also angered farming reps who have been calling for years for the
State to indemnify them against claims from walkers or other leisure
users (See separate story on Comhairle na Tuaithe).
judgment puts the NPWS in a very difficult position. During the
recession the service has not had the resources to maintain the miles
of boardwalk and paths under its care. If everyone who slips or falls
on the service’s maintained structures were to sue, then it is
likely, reluctantly, to close many of them down.
Judge Linnane’s ruling stands or falls on appeal, it underscores the
need for the kind of legislation which exists in Scotland and
Scandinavia which makes it plain that walkers, mountain bikers and
other users are involved in a potentially dangerous activity which
they undertake entirely at their own risk and that unless a landowner
deliberately sets out to cause them harm, they have no case.
It is impossible to have
open access alongside a compo culture.
Glenasmole saved for the people
Bohernabreena : Saved for
future generations to enjoy
We spotted an estate
agent’s advert in the Irish Times offering 5,000 acres of land in
Glenasmole Co Dublin for sale. Most of this land is in the upper
reaches of the River Dodder and adjoins the Wicklow National Park. The
thought of this magnificent wilderness area being bought by some
developer who might find some way of developing it was too horrible to
contemplate. We alerted the leader of the Green Party Eamon Ryan TD to
this threat which resulted in his making an impassioned speech in the
Dail, which was televised and which resulted in extensive coverage in
the Irish Times.
Minister of State for
Regional Economic Development Michael Ring has recently written to KIO
to confirm that the government has purchased the land on behalf of the
National Parks and Wildlife Service.
It will be integrated into the
Wicklow National Park, which will, as a result, be expanded to more
than 125,000 acres. The
purchase of the land for the State protects a vital ‘lung’ for
Dublin. It is not only important as a recreational area in itself but
it is also vital because of the degree of protection it will give to
routes which run South into the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains,
particularly across to Seefin, Kippure,Glencree and beyond.
Finola, is failure, not success
Moylette : Failing to grasp the nettle for success
you ever doubted that some senior Civil Servants live in a bubble of
their own illusions, consider this from Finola Moylette, the
ultra-cautious and deeply conservative senior official who has chaired
Comhairle na Tuaithe (the countryside commission), off and on for more
than a decade.
that time, Ireland has fallen further than ever behind all of our
European neighbours in our failure to protect public access to our
mountains, lakes, countryside and national monuments. Yet changing
access laws is never even discussed at Comhairle meetings chaired by
Ms Moylette (the farming reps wouldn’t like it).
more pathetically, one of the priorities set for Comhairle seven years
ago by long-departed FF Minister Eamon O Cuiv was to establish a
national indemnity scheme protecting landowners from potential court
cases for damages over injuries to people on their land.
all this time, there is no such scheme. Talks “continue” with the
State Claims Agency, the
increasingly inward-looking membership of Comhairle have been
told for years. So imagine our surprise when Ms Moylett, while singing
CnaT’s praises at a recent conference in Kerry, chimed in with how
much she welcomed the “progress” that her toothless quango has
made in continuing with talks about the National Indemnity Scheme.
the real world, Finola, failing to deliver something after seven years
of allegedly trying is regarded as dismal, pathetic failure.
No amount of hot air and window dressing can alter that fact.
of the effects of this procrastination is that it has prevented
essential repair work to Croagh Patirick because of ongoing concerns
about possible claims.
other “success”, she told the Kerry conference, is the number of
walks now in the State-sponsored Walks Scheme. She did not mention
that Ireland only has a fraction of the number of walks available in
other countries; that the millions spent on walks scheme grants
nothing in terms of rights to the public as landowners can, and do,
pull out whenever they like, rendering whole expensively–built and
advertised routes out of bounds.
Is it any wonder that we
have such hopeless access laws when changing them is never even
discussed by the countryside commission and the chair of that
commission dresses up dismal failure as success?
Comhairle na Tuaithe has
become increasingly like a weird cult where the very issues regarded
as central to access and outdoor pursuits in other countries
are permanently off the agenda. It is, consequently, increasingly
irrelevant and unable to solve the very issues it was set up to
tackle. It will remain so as long as its various cult members all sing
each other’s praises to keep the uncomfortable roar of reality from
Finola Moylette’s chairmanship, CnaT has become a dull, ineffectual
body where the real issues are seldom discussed, let alone confronted.
But then if you are dressing up a decade of failure as success, you
really do not
have much of a grasp on reality. Nor do you have the right to
be taken seriously by the continually short-changed recreational users
and visitors to Ireland who pay your substantial salary.
EU Commissioner urged to act over Howth
over threats to access on Howth Head continues
plot thickens in the ongoing battle by locals to keep as much as
possible of Howth Head open to public access.
we last reviewed this issue there have been several developments.
An Bord Pleanala (ABP) has finally issued a determination on
the planning status of two controversial gateposts, following the
removal of a gate previously deemed by ABP to have been improperly
erected in 2010. Disregarding two recommendations from its own
professional staff, ABP now deems these posts to be Exempted
unsightly wire fencing has recently been erected overlooking the
popular Cliff Walk. An Enforcement Representation was submitted to
Fingal Co Council. A Section 5 application (a formal request to the
council to give is reasons for a planning decision) may be required to
clarify the planning status of these unsightly fences.
the Council’s response favours the fencing, that could then be
referred to Bord Pleanala. However, in the light of their previous
decision, the prospects for such an appeal seem poor.
Allenspark Ltd, a company associated with Treasury Holdings, and ABP
continue their agreed ‘parking’ in Court of an Application for
Judicial Review granted to Allenspart in September 2013. Consequently,
there is a court-ordered stay on ‘action being initiated by any
seems that this stalemate can continue until the parties to the Review
conclude their business. In the interim no legal challenge to the
status quo is permitted.
MEP Nessa Childers has been in contact with EU Environment and Marine
Commissioner Karmenu Vella regarding the conflict at East Mountain. We
understand Fingal County Council will develop and implement
conservation strategy for this dry heathland, which is within the Howth
SAAO Area and the UNESCO Dublin Bay
needed to protect pilgrim paths
are a number of Pilgrim paths still physically open for access – not
necessarily for their original purpose!
one that readily comes to mind is the path to the top of Croagh
Patrick, the maintenance of which has become increasingly problematic
because of confusion over who actually owns much of the mountain.
You may be surprised to know that none of the existing pilgrim
paths are listed in county plans as public rights of way. Therefore,
like any other access route, they have no legal protection and can be
closed at any time, without notice, by the landowner. As most of these
paths go back many centuries they must surely come within the ambit of
what the courts here and in the UK refer to as “time immemorial”,
thereby deeming them to be public rights of way. In the coming months
we intend to make further efforts to have them listed.
A similar situation arises in respect of mass paths and paths
to mass rocks and holy wells. While many of these don’t go back as
far as most of the pilgrim paths, it should be possible to designate
them and some have already been listed. However, the problem here is
that nowadays few are used for their original purpose and many have
fallen into disuse and will eventually become unidentifiable and thus
lost for ever.
We rely on you, our members on the ground, to let us know about
these paths in your vicinity.
Erecting ugly fencing no longer so
another plain waste of taxpayers’ largesse, the Department of
Agriculture has made a substantial tranche of public money available
to landowners in the form of grants for sheep fencing, much of it ugly
and completely unnecessary.
it’s not all bad news. In order to get a grant for ordinary
farmland, the landowner must now get either planning permission or an
exemption from having to apply for it. Better still, in Special Areas
of Conservation, Special Protection Areas or Natura 2000 habitats new
or replacement fencing now always requires planning permission. Most
of the uplands and other areas of rough grazing are in these areas.
Hopefully, these obstacles
may deter farmers from applying for, and erecting, the kind of ugly
and unnecessary fencing now despoiling so much of our countryside.
KIO has had some notable
planning successes in having permission refused. So please continue to
send us instances where an application is made for fencing or fencing
is actually taking place.
being lured here under false pretences
walkers, just like our own, have very few rights
July 7, Junior Heritage Minister Michael Ring was asked in the Dail if
the Walks Scheme could be used more effectively to boost tourism in
didn’t answer the question but said that figures produced by Fáilte
Ireland demonstrate that, in 2014, close to 1.2 million overseas
visitors coming to Ireland engaged in recreational walking. The total
spent here by them was about €915 million, up €265 million on
2013. The figure for 2015 is expected to top €1 billion.
figures do not include the substantial number of domestic
holidaymakers engaging in hiking or walking.
of which begs the question: how many of those well-intentioned foreign
holidaymakers were aware that they have fewer rights to walk, cycle or
visit national monuments, lakes or rivers here than in any of the
other countries in which they could have spent their holidays.
We think many of them have been lured here by Failte Ireland
under totally false pretences.
from the Welsh experience
letter published in the Irish Times on August 1 2016 gives food for
has about 20 per cent of its territory in national parks; Ireland,
with similar terrain has less than 1 per cent.
in Wales, the national parks are excellently run, with recreational
users well catered for, whereas in Ireland’s national parks,
facilities for such users are inadequate or barely adequate. Here’s
one major explanation for this disparity: in Wales and Britain
generally, land remains in private hands, while in Ireland, the State
purchases every square inch, leaving little over for the necessary
is a point missed by Mountaineering Ireland in its letter about the
Dublin Mountains (letters, July 25th) which assumes all land for
national parks must be purchased by the State. Not so! Measures can be
introduced to allow public access over private land, as has been done
over much of Europe. This would not be repugnant to the Constitution,
as those who oppose any measure to improve public access claim;
However it is a convenient excuse for doing nothing.
Government lacks is the backbone to take on landowners, primarily
farmers, whose sturdy independence does not preclude the acceptance of
immense largesse from the same taxpayers who are granted peanuts in
the form of inadequate access to their land in return. As long as this
state of affairs continues, Ireland will lag far behind other European
countries, with grave implications for tourism and 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.