Newsletter No 23 Summer 2004 

Editorial : The attitude of the IFA

Not a square inch! Sounds like the North during the marching season! The IFA is quite determined to prevent rights of way receiving the backing of local authorities particularly in Wicklow. They sent in hundreds of serial objections to the rights of way in Wicklow. They demanded head-to-head meetings with each of the councillors and they sent the IFA version of the heavy gang from the Farm Centre to lean on a group of councillors. It worked, this time. Their latest PR stunt is an information booklet just published by Agri Aware - a front for the IFA. It highlights their Countryside code, which asks that before crossing private land permission must be sought from the landowner. Note the singular. Much mountain land is commonage with perhaps fifty owners each of whom presumably has to be asked. Can you imagine the plight of a conscientious walker? After some weeks of seeking out the multiplicity of owners he finally tracks down the last owner John Murphy. But there is a little problem; John went to Australia seventy years ago. For God’s sake IFA get real. As a matter of common courtesy most walkers would ask permission if they knew whom to ask but how does one find out? And it gets worse! “I am sure you would appreciate people asking for permission to enter your back garden and the landowner is no different”. This parallel was first alluded to by the IFA more than five years ago. Nothing changes.

 To be serious we accept the rights of private property - many of our members are property-owners. However, property has duties as well as rights. The IFA, by their policy of not entering into meaningful dialogue with KIO to see how our demand for reasonable access to the countryside can be met, are denying the local rural communities the economic benefit that walking visitors from home and abroad can bring as well as access to the local countryside. We will not be bullied or deflected from our task of lobbying for legally guaranteed access routes to the uplands and the freedom to roam once we get there. We would appeal to the IFA to open their ears to hear what we have to say and then open their minds and give our ideas a bit of thought. It could be a Win/Win and not a Lose/Lose situation. Finally, farmers need to be reminded that the bulk of their income comes from the taxpayers of Ireland and other countries and is now paid to farmers unconditionally without the requirement to produce anything (no statistics on this issue on the booklet). The very least we expect from farmers is that they should allow reasonable access to the land. 

The booklet was heavily promoted in the Farmer’s Journal (Page 1, 17th July 2004) and the Wicklow People on Wednesday 21st July (page 14) with a picture of Lough Dan in Co Wicklow. It is worth noting that the track on the far side of the lake (Ballinarush) has been blocked off for over two years by one of the local landowners.

 

The Right Way (Editorial Irish Times Saturday 17th July 2004)

It is a source of regret that the Irish Farmer’s Association has this week - and not for the first time- been to the forefront of a backward and sectional attitude towards promoting the widest possible enjoyment of the countryside. In this instance as a result of submissions to the Wicklow County Council by the IFA, 14 rights of way and 33 access routes were removed this week from the county’s draft development plan. Because of this, no rights of way will be included in the Wicklow County Development Plan for 2005 - 2010 when it takes effect in January. The 47 rights of way and access routes, including the Bray-to-Greystones cliff walk will remain lost in municipal limbo for at least a year while a sub-committee of the council, which does not yet exist, considers what to do. The sub-committee is expected to report by June 2005. However the omens are not good; another sub-committee of the council charged with examining problems with regard to the cliff walk has failed to produce a report in almost 2 years.

 This lamentable situation is not unique to Co. Wicklow. And it needs to be acknowledged also that right is not all on one side when it comes to access to the countryside. The growing demand for a generalized right to roam raises complex issues which will be resolved neither by belligerent refusal to recognise a need to open up the countryside, nor by arrogant militancy which refuses to acknowledge genuine rural concerns. Far too many landowners have been victims of the compo-culture mentality, and there are also too many instances of almost wilful ignorance of the countryside code. 

Too often, however, and frequently egged on by professional representatives and elected councillors unwilling to see the wider public interest, some landowners have taken their case to unreasonable, at times illegal, limits. Thousands of acres in the West of Ireland have been fenced off in recent years, denying citizens of this State and visitors alike reasonable access to some of the wildest and most beautiful countryside. 

Arguments that seek to equate open access to a mountainside or beach on the western seaboard with a right to privacy in a suburban housing estate garden are specious and should be rejected. However, if local solutions cannot be found to this problem, the Government must examine matters and put forward suggestions that command the widest possible support. The problem of owner liability, if it persists genuinely despite earlier efforts at resolution, must be re-examined. But neither individual landowners nor the IFA should have a veto over access to the countryside. Ireland belongs to us all.

Comhairle na Tuaithe - The countryside Council

In spite of our strong opposition, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmer’s Association have been appointed by the minister to the Council. We made our sentiments known to their representatives at a recent Working group meeting. We will be represented at a second meeting of the Council, which will take place shortly. The omens are not propitious! (also see West Cork under Issues/Letters).

Access walk - Glencree

The Enniskerry Walking Association are organising a walk along the Old Coach Road and the Famine Road in the Glencree Valley, Co, Wicklow commencing at 1 p.m. Sunday 19 September. Meeting at Shop River, 185 bus terminus near Enniskerry. These walks are to highlight access difficulties in the Glencree area. Further information: Niall Lenoach tel : 087 928 4934

KIO keep pressure on county development plans

We continue to monitor the review of county development plans in counties with substantial upland areas.

 Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown : About half the rights of way have been objected to by landowners. The Council is examining all objections and, no doubt, will be calling on you to assist them in gathering evidence of public usage. If any clubs or members have particular knowledge of rights of way in the Council area please contact Roger Garland (01 493 4239). 

Wicklow : There has been extensive coverage in the media about the taking out of the Rights of Way and Access Routes from the draft Plan in spite of opposition from the three councillors who have supported us throughout our campaign - Deirdre de Burca(GP), Derek Mitchell(FG) and Ann Ferris(Lab). The resolution to have a token 2 rights of way included in the Plan was defeated 19 votes to 5. Two other labour councillors supported us. This is sending a clear message both to the people of Wicklow and to visitors that they are not welcome. It was then agreed that an “Interim” Committee be set up to examine this issue and report back. The meeting was preceded by a presentation by the IFA to which we were given no right of reply. It was agreed that we would be agreed to make our case before the Council in September. It was also agreed that we would be considered for membership of the Interim Committee. Matters were not helped by the inaccurate maps produced by the Council Staff, which succeeded in annoying both walkers and landowners. At the end of the day, councillors are elected to serve the best interests of all the people of Wicklow, not just the landowners. 

South Dublin : This Council decided unanimously at a meeting in July to prepare a list of rights of way. 

KIO are also preparing submissions on development plans in Fingal, North Tipperary, Waterford, Sligo, Clare and Limerick. We are also actively seeking an amendment to the Planning Act 2000 to make the listing of rights of way by local councils mandatory.

Issues and Letters

Bye-Bye Ireland

Please find enclosed our cheque for our annual membership of KIO. This is probably going to be our last contribution, as we will leave Ireland this year. One of the main reasons is that we don’t enjoy any freedom at all when it comes to walking or horse riding. More recently we were threatened when we were out on horseback and are since very cautious ( as a neighbour attacked us with a hay fork not so long ago). When we go hill walking we are aware of the fact that we often cross farmland and even though the path is a “public path” we cannot relax and enjoy it until we are back on safe ground. We usually spend our holidays in Germany or Switzerland and enjoy wonderful walking possibilities there. This makes us feel more and more depressed. On top of all this houses come up like mushrooms everywhere and the landscape has been irreversibly destroyed…but that’s another topic. We wish you all at KIO the very best for the future, keep up the good work - Ireland desperately needs people like you - before it’s too late. 

Kind regards G & A L Co Mayo

Rights of Way on Ireland’s Strands

We are a family living in West Cork. We bought an old farmhouse over ten years ago and though we had only 2 acres on a bigger farm, the old farmer let us walk the land down to the sea. Our children grew up around his small herd and donkey. He then passed the farm on to his son two years ago who no sooner had it than he put up PRIVATE PROPERTY signs everywhere. TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED, fences, gates and made clear verbally we were never again to walk HIS land. We might disturb his cows!! I didn’t realise we were so BACKWARD in Ireland as to rights of way, ways to access our own countryside. Everyone in our townland who is over 50 grew up crossing fields - it was the shortest path to a destination. WHAT HAS CHANGED SO DESPERATELY and WHY? Noveau riche Celtic Tiger??? I would like to know what is the right of way to Ireland’s strands. Is it up to the high water mark that you can walk WITHIN YOUR RIGHT? Please let me know a s soon as you can. We are wanting to reclaim a little of our enjoyment of OUR environment. Many thanks, 

Sincerely, J. C. 

Editor’s Comment: There are two questions here,

(1) Creating a legal right of way: If the farmer gave you permission to cross his land on a regular basis all that is created is a permissive right of way, i.e. it can be withdrawn at any time by the current landowner. This is one of the biggest problems we face in Ireland, when land changes hands there is nothing left in perpetuity for the recreational user. Nothing has been recorded or registered. However, it seems that if the land is used for 20 years without permission, without being stopped and without being secretive(exercised without interruption from time immemorial) a legal right of way can be established by usage. This concept really needs to be tested in the Irish Courts as it is extensively and successfully used in the UK. 

(2) Access and use of the beach: There are several Acts covering this area, the main ones being the Foreshore Acts 1933 to 2003. The basic principle is that the state owns the foreshore, which is the land and seabed between the high water of ordinary or medium tides and the 12 mile limit. The general public have a right to use the beach between the high and low water marks and if you can access the beach some other way (by sea or via other land) the landowner cannot put you off the foreshore. However, there are several landowners who for historical reasons etc own the foreshore(this would be shown in their deeds) but the attitude of the state is “if you own it prove it”. The government department with the expertise in this area are the Foreshore Section of the Department of the Marine at Ph. 01 678 2000. In the short term a fresh appeal to the new landowners may be helpful.

Dingle Way - Co Kerry 

I would like to join Keep Ireland Open as I regularly bring walking groups over to Ireland. However, you may receive a complaint from travel agency Topo Aktief about the Dingle Way from Ventry, just beyond Cill Mhic an Domhnaigh where walkers were chased off the Dingle Way by an angry farmer. When they had walked the asphalt road and joined the Dingle Way further on, a lady farmer wanted them to pay money. I walked this stretch in the last week of April with a group of 12 and had no problems. Hope to hear from you soon, many thanks in advance. 

Yvonne Hontelé Germany

Editor’s Comment: According to Tailor Made Tours (who operate from the South West) and others, because of landowners objections, 90% of the Dingle Way has to be walked on the public road.

West Cork 

I am English and visited County Cork a couple of years ago. Being a keen hiker I enquired at the Clonakilty Tourist Information office as to where I could go walking. They looked at me a little sheepishly before suggesting some place that I knew to be many miles away! So I asked what rights I had to go walking in the countryside? Very reluctantly they admitted that there were no rights of access if the land was private. Therefore, as I am from England I would advise hikers not to bother with Ireland till they get their act sorted out there. Stay at home in England or Wales, or go to Scotland, which is a hiker’s paradise. The Irish government should realise the massive potential of attracting hikers to Ireland if they provide at least some reasonable level of access to the countryside. So to KIO I say good luck in your valiant quest! 

Best Regards Mr H.W. D 

Editor’s Comment: You will be aware from out last issue the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 was passed giving the legal right of access to the public. Also, the walking resources in the English countryside includes ………. Over 188,000 km of rights of way Over 33,600 km of long distance paths Many shorter, locally promoted paths ………..and over one million hectares of open access land will become available following the full implementation of the Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW). Recreational users also contribute substantially to the rural economy - a fact that became all too apparent during the 2001 outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease. There are over 527 million estimated walking trips made annually to the English countryside. The expenditure associated with these trips is in the region of £6.14 billion. The income generated from this expenditure is estimated to be between £1.5 and £2.8 billion and supports between 190,000 and 250,000 full-time equivalent jobs. All of the above is facilitated by the ready availability of the definitive Ordnance Survey Maps. (Source : The Economic and Social Value of Walking in England by Dr. Mike Christie and John Matthews). With all of the above information readily available why KIO cannot understand is why the farming organizations and Fáilte Ireland objected at a recent Comhairle na Tuaithe meeting to the inclusion of ‘Developments in other Countries’ on the agenda.

KIO’s Aims listed below are modest compared to the above

To achieve a network of well-marked, maintained rights of way in lowland areas to allow short walks and reach open ground

To gain freedom to roam over rough grazing land, that is about 7% of the total area.

To minimise barbed-wire fencing in mountain areas, as it is visually intrusive and severely hinders walkers.

Wicklow - Avoca 

I have an issue with access to the river in Avoca Co Wicklow. There is a long stretch of riverbank which is really wide and easily accessible between the Village and Avoca Handweavers. As a child I played there a lot as did most of the kids in the village. It was also used for walking, and even occasionally, camping. This is the only stretch of riverbank that is “walkable” in our beautiful village and I was shocked recently to find that it had been fenced off by the current landowner(all previous owners had no problem) and people are being denied access. I recently brought my kids for a walk (not knowing this was now forbidden) and after having a really difficult job even reaching the riverbank (fences) I was ordered to leave by the owner as I was on private property. I’ve never complained about anything in my life but I do feel really strongly about this as it is such a beautiful place and has always been open to local people to walk and play. I feel particularly sad that there is now nowhere in Avoca that I can bring my kids to reach them to skim stones. I was playing on the riverbank with my pals 20 years before this person even arrived in Avoca. Is there anything I can do? Can you help me? 

GB Wicklow 

Editor’s Comment: Under the Planning Act 2000 if there were no fences on the land for the past ten years they will have to be removed unless the owner has planning permission. The details were forwarded to the Heritage Officer, Wicklow County Council some time ago and neither the letter writer not KIO have been contacted on the issue. The latest details we have indicate that a private development is now underway on the site and there are doubts about the ownership of the riverbank. Of course this would never have happened in the UK, see R v City of Sunderland (2003). The judgement rescued threatened land by registering it as a green. The judgement is also on the internet at: www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200203/ldjudgement/jd031113/beres-l.htm

 

Student Opinion 

I am currently doing an assignment for the University of Limerick on the difficulties between hill walkers and farmers/landowners. Before starting my research into this problem I have to say I was biased towards farmers/landowners. All is changed after reading your website. I am appalled at the lack of access for walkers in Ireland. I would be very interested to read copies of your organisation’s submissions to the relevant government departments. Would it be possible for you to e-mail copies to me? They would be a great help to me for this assignment. 

Regards, SM Dublin 22.

Donations/Membership 

Many thanks to our individual and group members for the generous donations they have made to KIO recently. The donations are most encouraging and will be put to good use. Welcome to the Speleological Union of Ireland and the 25 individuals who joined KIO recently. The membership of KIO now stands at 40 group members (representing approx 100,000 members) and several hundred individual members.

Heritage Officers in the Countryside

We are delighted to report that Heritage Officers have been appointed by several local authorities with what we understand to be a brief on rights of way and access issues. It remains to be seen how effective they will be with the various issues that continually arise in the countryside.

Listed below is a full list of existing Heritage Officers which we are led to believe will be increased to thirty six. Contact them if you have access or rights of way problems in your area.

County Council Telephone No. Heritage Officers Address
Carlow (0503)70300 Lorcan Scott County Buildings
Athy Road
Carlow
Clare (065)6821616 Congella Maguire New Road
Ennis
Co. Clare.
Cork (021)4276891 Sharon Casey C/o SWRA
Inismore
Ballincollig
Co.Cork
Galway (091)509000 Marie Mannion Forward Planning Section
County Buildings
Prospect Hill
Galway.
Kerry (066)7121111 Una Cosgrove Áras an Chontae
Tralee
Co. Kerry
Leitrim (078)20005 Bernie Guest Governor House
Carrick - on - Shannon
Co. Leitrim.
Limerick (061)318477 Tom O'Neill O'Connell Street
Limerick.
Laois / Offaly (0506)46800 Amanda Pedlow C/o Offaly County Council
Courthouse
Tullamore
Co. Offaly.
Roscommon (0903)37100 Nollaig McKeown Courthouse
Roscommon.
Sligo (071)56666 Siobhan Ryan County Development Centre
Cleveragh
Co. Sligo
Tipperary (NR) (067)31771 Siobhan Geraghty Courthouse
Nenagh
Co. Tipperary.
Tipperary (SR) (052)25399 Brendan Mc Sharry County Hall
Clonmel
Co. Tipperary.
Longford / Westmeath (044)40861 Gerry Clabby C/o Westmeath Co Co
County Buildings
Mullingar
Co. Westmeath.
Wicklow (0404)20100 Deirdre Burns County Offices
Wicklow.
       
City Council Telephone No Heritage Officers Address
Dublin (01) 6722222 Donncha O Dulaing Civic Offices
Wood Quay
Dublin 8.
Galway (091) 536400 Jim Higgins Town Hall
College Road
Galway.

KIO Contacts

President - Jackie Rumley 098-36144

Chairman - Roger Garland 01-4934239

Secretary - Michael Carroll 01-4943221

Membership Secretary/Treasurer - Kitty Murphy 01 - 8378594

Minutes Secretary - Patricia Hamilton 834 2054

 

Committee

Brian Graham : 01-8322 53


Feargal McLouglin : 01-286545

Tony O'Sullivan,01 837 4440

Frank Winder. 01 497 0016

Connaught: Secretary - Michael Murphy 098 25068


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