is a better route
KIO is always delighted to see any
initiative which gives the public better access to our contryside.In
that regard we are heartened to see the amount of effort that has gone
into creating the Looped Walks scheme and walks along old rail lines
around the country.
In and of themselves these routes help
both our citizens and overseas visitors to know and enjoy our
But (and it is a big 'but') if you want to see
what is wrong with this scheme, consider the threat made by John
O'Donnell of the ICMSA (Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Assocation) at
a recent meeting of Comhairle na Tuaithe
(the Countryside Commission). His members, says Mr O'Donnell, stand
ready to block the Newport to Mulrany walking and cycling route
recently-opened at hugh expense in Co Mayo. The blockade may be
imposed unless money which he claims is owed to them from the public
purse under various farm handout schems is paid promptly.
His threat, and similar threats made by the farming
organisations over the years, underscore the weakness of the
so-called "permissive" approach to public access
whereby the State invests in routes without securing any public
rights. Quite simply, the permission can be withdrawn at any time.
There is no right in perpetuity and all of the investment in
taxpayer's money, official's time and expensive publicity here and
abroad that has gone into the scheme is worthless if routes are
constantly held to ransom.
Anybody doubting the willingness of the cynical
farming organisations to hold the walkways to ransom over headage,
tillage and environmental payments should just listen for a moment to
the John O'Donnells of this world. Then they will wonder whether all
this funding from the State coffers would not have been better spent
compulsorily purchasing metre-wide strips along the routes in question
at agricultural rates.
They may even go further and wonder why we cannot have
the kind of legislation whereby the public has a right, subject to
strict rules and a code of behaviour, to pass over the countryside
unhindered, as they can in Scorland, Finland and Sweden.
Rights-of-way: It’s down to you
are sometimes asked by members if there is anything they could do at
local level to help KIO. Well, now there is – and it is something
that should help to preserve existing walking routes for future
For years we have lobbied successive
governments to pass a law which would require local councils to
register rights-of-way. All that effort has finally born fruit. The
Planning Act 2010, which we described at length in our last
newsletter, has been passed. Section 7 (2) (o) makes it compulsory for
local authorities to register all public rights-of-way.
So now it is over to you – and to all
the other citizens who know, or think they know, of walking and
cycling routes that are being used, or have been used, and need to be
Because unless somebody actually goes to
their local council and points the route out to them it will probably
never be registered and will never receive protection.
So here’s what you need to do to get
these routes listed: Write
a clear description of the route in question – where it starts,
where it finishes, where it goes. Then, using a photo copy of an
Ordnance Survey map, mark it clearly. Then call into your local
authority Planning Office and deliver it by hand – preferably to a
planning official. And by the way, it’s best to get their name.
good idea is to make sure you keep a few copies of your submission.
Give one to your local councillor and ask him or her to follow it up.
Remember: If you don’t tell your local
council about rights-of-way, they may never be recognised. Listing
routes means more work for officials. In most areas they will need to
be chivvied so don’t expect them to take the initiative.
Other tasks that we would encourage you
to undertake include monitoring both
planning applications for fencing of hitherto open areas and
applications that impinge on rights of way.
Also, it will help if you investigate
specific complaints about access difficulties.
In times of economic stringency there is
no point in waiting for council officials to fight your corner. The
new law on registering routes will only be as effective as we, the
lovers of the outdoors, make it.
and less of Moher
Cliffs of Moher:Long-standing
walking routes have been blocked off and hostile signs erected
Dalan de Bri
is one of the country’s prime tourism destinations, but the approach
to the southern end of the Cliffs of Moher from Liscannor, at Hag's
Head and the Signal Tower, is blocked by locked gates and “No
Trespassing, Private Property” signs. (See Discovery Series No
57, R896 014).
On the 2nd Edition of the Discovery Series map this
route is marked as part of the Burren Way but on the 3rd Edition the
Burren Way has been re-routed much further inland and so no longer
takes in the Cliffs of Moher walk.
The footpath marked on the map (R931 045, Discovery
Map No 51) about 2km to the north of the Visitors’ Centre on the
Cliffs of Moher that leads to Doolin along the coast, a continuation
of the cliff walk, is blocked by a cattle grid and a Beware of the
Bull sign. I could see no sign of the bull.
One can of course park at the visitors' centre,
€8 when I was there at the beginning of July, to be increased I
believe, and walk along the Cliffs but access from the south or the
north to what is possibly one of the most exciting stretches of coast
in the country is blocked.
A Donegal welcome: No dogs, no walkers
following letter on access to the Bluestack Mountains in Donegal was
received by a KIO member:
spoke with one of your members recently on a Ramblers’ hike re a
problem I had in Donegal
walk in question above Lough Eske was based on one by Gareth McCormack
in the Sept/October 1998 edition of Walking World Ireland. A walk
covering the same access route is published in an in-house publication
of Harvey's Point Hotel, Rambles near
by Tom Phelan in 2008.
walks spoke of a walking sign at Edergole in the vicinity of some
outhouses. No such sign was to be found when I attemped the walk on
theory at the outhouses, which I found, it should have been possible
to walk up
stony track towards the Doonan Falls and Lough Belshade. The gate at
to this stony track was firmly closed and had a
commercial red and
sign indicating “Keep out, private property”.
addition written in marker on the sign was: “No dogs, no walkers.”
It was very clear to us that we were not
and address supplied
Stroll tolls are not
the way to go
machine on Geokaun Mountain, Co Kerry
and Muiris O'Donoghue, who farm in Valentia, South Kerry, have started
charging people who walk or cycle on their land.
to a recent ‘Ear to the
Ground ‘ programme on RTE1 television, they have installed a pay
machine (right) on their hillfarm
Mountain. The O’Donoghues are demanding €5 for the occupants of a
car and €2 from pedestrians and cyclists who walk their land.
O'Donoghues were described in ‘Ear to the Ground’ as the latest of
a number of farmers who have been charging walkers directly for
access. It was said they had earned €25,000 from their venture so
programme also highlighted farmers running similar schemes on the
Beara Peninsula. There, farmer Donal Corkery is marketing a waterfall,
some lakes and a mountain backdrop in the northern Caha Mountains as
Gleninchaquin Park. Also in West Cork Dan Healy and his family have
been charging walkers for years if they pass over his land while
traversing the popular Cummeengeera Horseshoe.
probably thought all those years of
massive subvention from the taxpayers of Ireland and Europe was
received with gratitude by Irish farmers. You may even have imagined
that they appreciated your solidarity in keeping them on the land.
Silly you. Having kept them
on the land, you will now be expected to pay again just to pass over
These are the same farmers who insist there must be no rights of
access but will want even bigger handouts from the Irish taxpayer when
EU support for Irish
farmers dries up in 2012.
Stiffer rules for
SENIOR adviser to John Gormley, Minister for the Environment, has
written to KIO promising that County Councils will in future be much
stricter with regard to unauthorised developments carried out without
an Environmental Impact Report – and that includes unsightly and
unnecessary barbed wire fencing.
The assurance comes as a result of
KIO’s victory in the European Court of Justice, where we took the
State to task for failing to ensure reasonable environmental
stewardship, particularly with regard to ugly, dangerous and unsightly
fencing in rural areas.
Mr Gormley’s Private Secretary Eddie Kearns wrote to Michael
Murphy of KIO’s Western branch to say that the Department of the
Environment has already been in touch with the European Commission to
assure them that the criteria under which developments need to take
account of the effect which they have on the environment has been
broadened. This will mean that many developments which were previously
regarded as exempt will no longer be so.
Kearns continues: “Fines have been significantly increased in
relation to persons convicted for planning offences, and planning
authorities are now required to follow up investigations with
enforcement notices or Section 160 proceedings unless there are
compelling reasons for not doing so.”
This should mean that we will now see
councils, who have previously been unwilling to act over illegal and
unsightly barbed wire fencing, taking a more proactive view.
The all-important European Court of
Justice ruling won by KIO (Case C-66/06V) effectively takes away
councils’ right to dodge the issues on planning and fencing. The
ruling insists that councils legally obliged to enforce planning and
environmental planning laws whether they like it or not and do not
have the discretion which they previously assumed to ignore
blatant misuse of this assumed discretionary power has seen hundreds
of now lost pathways and open areas fenced off and built upon.
up the pressure
Ireland Open has been lobbying all of the political parties to commit
to reform of access legislation in anticipation of the General
Election now expected early in the New Year.
Fail has long been wedded to a “permissive only” approach and has
set its face against legislating for access. Fine Gael has
historically taken a similar view. The Green Party, which introduced
the recent requirement for local authorities to register rights-of-way
(see Page One) has so far not committed to further reform.
is the only party to have formulated a developed policy for changes in
access law and to put this into their 2007 manifesto. Whether that
commitment will remain in their new offering is not known.
Fein has declined to make commitments regarding reform despite
indications of sympathy from TD Martin Ferris.
legal bill for locals who tried to protect access to castle
Rathcoffey castle: Battle continues over public access
of a local historical society have been left with a €23,000 legal
bill for trying to protect access to a national monument.
12 members of the Rathcoffey Historical Society are currently
fundraising to clear the bill, which consists of €7,000 for their
own legal costs and €16,000 for the legal fees of the landowner
blocking access. Remarkably, the €16,000 bill was originally set at
more than €50,000 but this was dramatically reduced by the Taxing
Master, who ruled that the original charges were too high.
two shares of the bill fall to one family as local
NationalSchool teacher Patricia McCann and her husband Gerry
are both members of the Historical Society.
bill arises out of attempts by locals
to protect access to Rathcoffey Castle, which has been blocked by
businessman Joe Hayes who owns land over which the access route runs.
Hayes took a High Court case against the Historical Society. He is a former Managing Director of both Gallaghers
tobacco and Independent News and media.Hayes does not live in
Rathcoffey but owns about 240 acres there. His house is a few miles
away in Nass.
recent years, access to Rathcoffey Castle was along a 1,400 metre-long
laneway and unimpeded. Until Hayes bought the land in 1987, there was
a well-built stile to facilitate pedestrian access to and from this
the castle is a National Monumnet in Guardianship. The OPW makes no
attempt to enforce or even actively seek public access to such
monuments. Hayes bought the land in 1987 and has been progressively
more aggressive in asserting his right to block acess. He removed the
stile and in 1996 he was presented with an enforcement order from
Kildare County Council to replace it. He ignored the notice and the
Council took no further action. Mr Hayes has repeately blocked people
from walking the route.
case underscores the need for legislation to protect access to
national monuments. A
National Monuments Bill which might have provided such protection has
been languishing in the Dail for years.
fails to enforce order for removal of fence
at centre of protest
and walkers have joined forces to protest at the erection of a fence
by a golf club owner.
protest march in September included a ‘fishing protest’ from the
cliffs near Brittas Bay in Co Wicklow at a site blocked by the steel
and barbed wire barrier erected by Pat Ruddy, owner of the adjacent
European Golf Club.
far back as 2005 Wicklow County Council ordered that the fence be
removed but they have taken no action to enforce the order.
Pleanala also issued a report saying that there was clear evidence
that the fence blocked footpaths used by anglers and walkers.
have vowed to continue their protests until the fence is removed but
the disgraceful non-action of Wicklow County Council must be called
Access officers – the names you need to know
WHEN you run into an access problem, your first port
of call should be to your local Rural Recreation
Officer. He or she will be grateful for any updates regarding
access and will usually approach the landowner in question to see if
there is a problem which can be solved.
Here is a list of the current RROs:
Ann Lannigan (tel: 057 8661900 or 086 8447338; email email@example.com);
Deirdre Kennedy (tel: 071 9141138, Fax 071 9141162;
Martin Dunn (tel: 0906 488292; email firstname.lastname@example.org);
Maria Munckhof (tel: 066 9472724 -064 41930; mobile:
087 2957780; email: email@example.com;
Con Ryan (tel: 062 33360; mobile 087 0556465; email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
James O’Mahoney (tel: 023 34035; mobiles 0870556465
and 0870556465); email: email@example.com;
Pat Mellon (tel: 0404 46977; mobile 087 7888188)
Thomás Mac Gearailt (tel: 091 593410/091 523945;
mobile: 087 0521339) email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
Tom Carolan (tel: 094 9366692; mobile: 087 2196930)
Eimear McCarthy (tel: 094 9366692; mobile: 086
0495041); email: email@example.com
Published by Keep Ireland Open. KIO is an
environmental organisation dedicated to preserving public access to
our mountains, lakes, seashore and countryside.