Newsletter No 39
Editorial: Time for
Fáilte to confront the truth
YOU might think
that Failte Ireland would have much in common with KIO and would
whole-heartedly support our efforts to bring Ireland’s dreadful
public access laws into line with most modern states. After all, they
have unenviable the job of trying to persuade foreigners to leave
their own jurisdictions, where the right of responsible public access
is protected, and come here, where they can be abused, attacked and
sent packing for simply taking a stroll. Not to mention all those
nasty signs and barbed wire fences.
But instead of
finding common cause with KIO, Failté has decided to simply deny that
the problems of public access exists at all. To Failté Ireland, all
those nasty incidents, threatening notices, fences and unreasonable
landowners are imaginary.
self-deception may be amusing but its deliberate and calculated
attempt to deceive those to whom it sells Ireland as a walking
destination is not. Looped walks established with payoffs to
landowners are all very well but do FI tell our British, French or
German visitors that they had better not, under any circumstances,
think they can make their way off these loops to visit interesting
national monuments, nearby beaches or that beautiful hill that looks
as though it is just waiting to be climbed?
They do not.
Worse, as our
story on Page 4 reveals, Failté manager Eithne Murphy accuses KIO of
being "anti-Ireland" and causing "untold damage"
for raising these inconvenient truths.
We have bad news
for you Eithne: Until you begin to tell it as it really is to both
foreign visitors and your political masters we will continue to do it
for you at every opportunity.
suggest you and your Failté get out a little more from those stuffy
offices. In fact we have along list of places that you really should
go but can’t. For whether you like it or even admit to it, this is
the real Ireland—and that will remain the case until the law is
changed. So join us, Eithne. But don’t expect us to help you keep
this dirty little secret.
Bitter Benwiskin battle ‘resolved’
Benwiskin: New looped walk takes in disputed route,
THE bitter and
long-standing dispute over access to Benwiskin Mountain in Co Sligo
has finally been solved, according to civil servants who have spent
years trying to broker a deal.
figure in the dispute, Andrew McSharry, who likes to style himself ‘The
Bull’, recently told journalists he now welcomes tourists and
Mr McSharry, who
has been campaigning against hillwalkers for 17 years, recently sold
land adjacent to the most bitterly contested route, an old access road
into a disused mine below Benwiskin, to mine owner Tom McGuinn. In a
strange twist Mr McGuinn is currently wanted for questioning by the
FBI after its investigators publicly accused him of contravening US
trade sanctions by selling American helicopter parts to the Iranianan
It is believed
that the mine still contains substantial reserves of the valuable
One of the
sweeteners to McSharry has been the construction by Coillte of a new
access road into his home beneath Benwiskin. This new road, paid for
by the Department of the Gaeltacht and Rural Affairs, can also be used
by walkers to go up or down Benwiskin peak. It forms part of a new
loop walk which takes in the old mine access road and the Benwiskin
ridge and peak.
A number of
threatening signs along the route have been removed, say officials,
and looped walk sign posts will be in place "within weeks".
The new spur
from the existing Coillte road runs westwards off the Horseshoe Road
(at around GR4850-7300. on Sheet 16 0:50,000). It extends a previously
existing forestry road, providing access to a point just East of and
under Benwiskin peak. Walkers can now climb the peak from the east,
follow the ridge south, emerging on the old miner road—or the other
way around—in a loop.
The dispute over
access to Benwiskin became a major embarrassment for Ireland
internationally after Mr McSharry was found guilty of threatening and
abusive behaviour against two hillwalkers who walked down the old
Miners’ Road in March 2003. He served a short prison sentence the
following January after he refused to pay a €300 fine and €100
costs imposed at Grange District Court in Sligo.
Landowner sends writs to 15 locals over access to
Rathcoffey Castle: Locals face High Court over access
of a local history group have received writs threatening High Court
action and a bill for hefty costs unless they withdraw a claim that
there is a right of public access to a historic castle in their area.
businessman Joe Hayes, from Naas in Co Kildare, refuses to acknowledge
that there is any right of public access to Rathcoffey Castle in Co
Kildare. He has dropped one of the writs, issued against a Jesuit
priest from nearby Clongowes school, after the clergy signed an
agreement withdrawing right of access claims.
The remaining 14
locals from the Rathcoffey Historical Group, who include three OAPs,
have been involved for several years in a dispute with Mr Hayes over
access to the ruins of the village’s striking mediaeval castle. They
have organised a number of walks, including one in 2006 which saw 150
people traverse the 1,400-metre laneway which leads to the castle.
Both the laneway
and castle are on Mr Hayes’ land. Mr Hayes, who does not live in
Rathcoffey but has a home some miles away in Naas, is a former
managing director of both Gallahers, the cigarette company, and
Local TDs –
Emmet Stagg (Labour), Aine Brady (FF) and Bernard Durkin (FG) and
Martin Mansergh, the FF TD for Tipperary South and Minister of State
at the Department of Finance with responsibility for the Office of
Public Works, were involved in lengthy negotiations between locals and
Mr Hayes in July.
A deal for
limited access was agreed subject to the writs being withdrawn but Mr
Hayes, who has adopted an aggressive stance towards a variety of
people making their way towards the castle, has as yet not withdrawn
been campaigning for years over the lack of any legal protection for
access to historic monuments. Rathcoffey is one of a number of
historically important sites to which access is denied.
currently allows landowners to block access unless an established
right-of-way can be shown to run over the land. Recent cases have made
it extremely difficult under Irish law to prove the existence of a
public right-of-way. One judgment a couple of years ago in the
notorious Glencree case (Collen v Lenoach) holds that a public
right-of-way cannot be held to exist in law unless a landowner has
dedicated a route to be such—in writing.
Ireland is now
one of the very few countries in Western Europe without clear rules
enabling public responsible public access to uninhabited historical
road’ High Court date set
A DATE has been
set for a High Court hearing of the long-running dispute over the Old
Coach Road in the Glencree Valley near Enniskerry.
Members of the
Irish Ramblers, the An Oige Walking Club, the Holiday Fellowship
Walking group and the Enniskerry Walking Association are all due to
give evidence in the case, which is slated for a four-day hearing in
the Dublin Four Courts starting on October 28.
dispute, which as been going on for several years, arises out of
attempts by a landowner named, ironically, Joe Walker, to block off an
old green road to public access. Mr Walker has also threatened to
block access to nearby Raven’s Rock, of which he is part-owner.
As part of his
campaign, Mr Walker has issued writs against two members of the local
Enniskerry Walking Association, chairman Niall Lenoach and secretary
Noel Barry, who planned a walk along the disputed section of the Old
Coach Road in September last year.
newsletter goes to press, more than two dozen witnesses are expected
to give evidence in the hearing, including many locals who insist that
the route is the old road to Dublin.
Britain to open up whole coastline
COASTAL path around the whole of England and Wales is being put
inplace.The Marine and Coastal Access Bill, that is due to be passed
at Westminster within weeks, will establish a path around the whole of
the coast at a cost of stg£50m.
The path will
also make it possible for ramblers to walk through golf courses,
country estates and farms currently closed to the public. Scotland
already has virtually free access to all land, including
costal areas. The path
will be 2,748 miles long and will take 10 years to build.
Welcome to Connemara
The Government and Failte Ireland like to pretend that
there is no problem over access in Ireland.
Dalan de Bri visited Connemara recently.
Here is a description of some of what he found there.
One notice near Slyne Head and another at Roundstone
Gleninagh Valley, Connemara:
A beautiful valley, giving
access to the Twelve Pins. According to Tim Robinson there is a Bronze
Age stone alignment in the valley, we couldn't find it.
We parked on the
main road and cycled up the valley because we had heard that the
landowner's problem was with walkers blocking the road and gateways
with their cars. There is a gate across what looks like a public road.
We cycled, then walked up the valley, met various people who waved and
When we got back
down to the main road again a "Private property—no
trespassing" sign that wasn't there on our way in had been put
up! I was again told by a local man that the landowners didn't really
mind people going up the valley but that the problem was with badly
parked cars. So why not put up a sign to that effect?
Slyne Head: Caorán Mór, just west of Connemara
Trespassers will be prosecuted" sign on a gate across what seems
to be a public road and a "Danger : Beware of the Bull" sign
on the gatepost. There was no bull that we could see, no cattle, just
sheep, and a horse. This is the only road down to the end of the
peninsula, about 2km away.
Just above the
foreshore there is another sign: "No access for pedestrians"
and beyond that lots of barbed wire fences that eventually succeeded
in preventing us going any further. People are denied access to a
large area and great views of Slyne Head and its two lighthouses. We
could see a fine-looking beach beyond the barbed wire. There is also a
holy well, Tobar Cháillín, and the saint's "bed" which,
according to Tim Robinson, "is visited by hundreds of Connemara
people on the 13th November every year", St Cáillín being the
patron of fishermen in particular. I wonder how they get in!
Bunowen Castle, near Doon Hill, about 4km South West
A "Private No
Admittance" sign on the gate prevents access. We were told the
landowner doesn't want people climbing all over the castle because
it's in a dangerous condition, which is understandable, but why not
put up a sign to say this instead of "No Admittance"?
Renville Point, Oranmore:
There is a good path, a
"Slí na Sláinte", down to the Point from the boat club,
being used by hundreds of people the evening we were there, but after
the point the path becomes overgrown. It is then blocked at a
"Private: No trespassing" sign at the Galway Bay golf club
people told us we could get round by the rocks if the tide was out but
remarked that it was a pity the authorities hadn't done the Slí na
Sláinte path properly as it could easily follow the coastline back to
Renmore and Galway city. The Country Club Hotel has been closed for
several years, we were told.
Dalan de Bri is a director of KIO and our Irish
A friendly word from the Murrough
IF YOU have ever
paid a visit to Wicklow town you will probably know the Murrough, a
long strip of land to the north of our town, stretching for miles
along the margin of the bay between lakes and sea.
The Murrough is
home to a huge diversity of bird life; the East Coast Nature Reserve
has its HQ close by. It is also an area much loved by bathers,
walkers, joggers, anglers, bird watchers, cyclists, athletes,
photographers and artists.
To the south of
Wicklow Town we have the Cliff Walk which stretches from the ruins of
the 12th Century Black Castle towards Wicklow Head. This provides a
picturesque ramble along the cliff tops where one can see a great
variety of migratory sea birds and the many seals that frequent the
secluded little sea coves. This is a historic pathway, not alone for
the Black Castle but it also passes Lime Kiln Bay, where one can see
the remains of an old penal church. A knapper carried on his business
there, fashioning flints to supply the needs of our remote ancestors.
Further on, near
Wicklow Head, we can see an octagonal lighthouse dating from the late
organisation, ‘Friends of the Murrough’, was originally founded
more than 10 years ago but has now been reactivated following the
closure of some of these walkways. Both of the walks outlined above
form the only public amenity area adjacent to our town; they have been
enjoyed by locals and visitors for many generations. A landowner tried
to fence off the Murrough back in 1970s but in the ensuing court case
the judge ruled that the public had a right to roam in the area. The
fence was removed.
In 2002, local
authorities tried to close down the full length of the Cliff Walk
while Iarnrod Eireann have choked off the Murrough walk at Five Mile
Point, making the going very uncomfortable for walkers. Anyone
venturing on another traditional walk on the eastern side of
Broadlough would experience even more
a fence has been placed alongside the water’s edge.
It is the aim of
our organisation to have this beautiful area protected under a ‘Special
Amenity Area Order’ in the same way that Howth and Bray Head already
enjoy this kind of protection. Such an Order would preserve the unique
character of the area, help to regulate development and secure
unhindered public access. Towards this objective, we commissioned a
report on the region from the Irish Sports Council and we have made
submissions to the County Development Plan and the Wicklow Heritage
Plan. The promotion of a healthy lifestyle and increased tourism to
the region should prove doubly beneficial. Our nearest neighbour,
Britain, is currently opening up its entire coastline to public
enjoy the support of upwards of three thousand people in our campaign
but we would invite anyone who is familiar with these areas and who
wish to see them preserved for public enjoyment to indicate their
support on our website at www.saveourshores.eu
where they can read a more complete account of our campaign. We can
also be contacted by email at
KIO finds Common cause with farmers
A FARMER who
fenced off about 60 acres of commonage for his own use has been
ordered to remove the fencing by Wicklow County Council following
representations from Keep Ireland Open.
A number of Keep
Ireland Open members, including mountain bikers, paragliders and
walkers, provided signed affidavits to the council after planning
officials initially indicated that they would not take action against
landowner Richard Redden. He erected the fencing on Ballyremon Common
on the south side of the Old Long Hill road over the summer of 2008.
Mr Redden had
not applied for planning permission, which he was required to do
because the area has long been open to a variety of leisure users.
The fence was a
threat and hindrance to mountain bikers, paragliders and walkers as
well as depriving several other shareholders in the commonage of their
representations, the council has reversed its position and on
September 30 issued Mr Redden with an Enforcement Notice warning that
he faces court action unless the fencing is removed within 21 days of
that date. As the newsletter went to press, the fence had not been
campaign saw Keep Ireland Open co-ordinating its activities with two
local farmers, both members of the Irish Farmers’ Association, who
approached KIO for help after Wicklow County Council’s initial
refusal to enforce the planning regulations.
just fine out there, insists Failté
has launched a bitter attack on KIO for pointing out to walkers from
the UK who might consider holidaying here that they will not enjoy the
kind of rights of access they are accustomed to at home.
The row broke
out after KIO wrote to ‘Walk’ magazine in response to a Failté
advert in the UK publication extolling the delights of Irish walking
holidays. We pointed out that our law in Ireland, unlike that of
Scotland, England and Wales, offers virtually no legal rights of
access over private land, through which many walks pass. We also
pointed out that facilities for walkers such as car parking, signage
and guide books, are less developed because of the difficult legal
situation surrounding access.
Our letter drew
a wounded response from Eithne Murphy, the Failté Ireland manager
promoting looped walks here. Insisting that there have been no recent
complaints from visitors regarding access, she accused KIO of causing
untold damage to our reputation as a walking destination, adding:
"It is anti-Ireland and does not reflect well on your
only conclude that Ms Murphy is torn between the three monkey approach
– hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil – and the ostrich
position: head in the sand. We could take her to dozens of places
around the country where access on walking routes is being denied and
those who take a stroll along routes to lakes, rivers, national
monuments or mountains face abuse, nasty notices, barbed wire and
worse. You can fool some of the people some of the time, Eithne, but
truth, as they say, will out..
Published by Keep Ireland Open. KIO is an
environmental organisation dedicated to preserving public access to
our mountains, lakes, seashore and countryside.