Newsletter 42                                                     Winter 2010

COMMENT

There  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 beautiful landscape.

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 Quite simply, the permission can be withdrawn at any time.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

We 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 generations.

   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 protected.

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.

Another 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. 

Less and less of Moher

 

   

Cliffs of Moher:Long-standing walking routes have been blocked off  and hostile signs erected

By Dalan de Bri

IT 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

The following letter on access to the Bluestack Mountains in Donegal was received by a KIO member:

Dear KIO, 

I spoke with one of your members recently on a Ramblers’ hike re a problem I had  in Donegal earlier this summer.

The walk in question above Lough Eske was based on one by Gareth McCormack

published 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 Harveys Point by Tom Phelan in 2008.

Both 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 23/08/2010.

In theory at the outhouses, which I found, it should have been possible to walk up a stony track towards the Doonan Falls and Lough Belshade. The gate at the entrance to this stony track was firmly closed and had a commercial red and white sign indicating “Keep out, private property”.

In addition written in marker on the sign was: “No dogs, no walkers.” It was very clear to us that we were not welcome.

Name and address supplied

 

Stroll tolls are not the way to go

 

Ticket machine on Geokaun Mountain, Co Kerry

BERNIE and Muiris O'Donoghue, who farm in Valentia, South Kerry, have started charging people who walk or cycle on their land.

According to a recent  Ear to the Ground ‘ programme on RTE1 television, they have installed a pay machine (right) on their hillfarm  on  Geokaun Mountain. The O’Donoghues are demanding €5 for the occupants of a car and €2 from pedestrians and cyclists who walk their land.

The 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 far.

The 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.

 You 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 it.

 Remember: 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 planners

 

A 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.

Mr 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 inconvenient regulations.

The blatant misuse of this assumed discretionary power has seen hundreds of now lost pathways and open areas fenced off and built upon. 

 

Keeping up the pressure

KEEP 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.

 Fianna 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.

 Labour 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.

Sinn Fein has declined to make commitments regarding reform despite indications of sympathy from TD Martin Ferris.

Ł23,000 legal bill for locals who tried to protect access to castle

 

Historic Rathcoffey castle: Battle continues over public access

MEMBERS of a local historical society have been left with a €23,000 legal bill for trying to protect access to a national monument.

The 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.

Sadly, 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.

The 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.

Mr 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.

 Until 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 laneway.

Technically 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.

The 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.

 

 Council fails to enforce order for removal of fence

Fence at centre of protest

ANGLERS and walkers have joined forces to protest at the erection of a fence by a golf club owner.

A 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.

As far back as 2005 Wicklow County Council ordered that the fence be removed but they have taken no action to enforce the order.

Bord Pleanala also issued a report saying that there was clear evidence that the fence blocked footpaths used by anglers and walkers.

Locals have vowed to continue their protests until the fence is removed but the disgraceful non-action of Wicklow County Council must be called into question.

 

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:

Co Laois:

Ann Lannigan (tel: 057 8661900 or 086 8447338; email rrolaois@gmail.com);

Co Sligo:

Deirdre Kennedy (tel: 071 9141138, Fax 071 9141162;

Co Roscommon:

Martin Dunn (tel: 0906 488292; email martin@southrosleader.ie);

South Kerry:

Maria Munckhof (tel: 066 9472724 -064 41930; mobile: 087 2957780; email: mfarmer@skdp.net;

South Tipperary:

Con Ryan (tel: 062 33360; mobile 087 0556465; email: con@gleann.net;

West Cork:

James O’Mahoney (tel: 023 34035; mobiles 0870556465 and 0870556465); email: jamessheepshead@eircom.net;

Co Wicklow:

Pat Mellon (tel: 0404 46977; mobile 087 7888188) email: pmellon@wicklowleader.ie;

Co Galway:

Thomás Mac Gearailt (tel: 091 593410/091 523945; mobile: 087 0521339) email: slichonamara@hotmail.com;

Co Mayo:

Tom Carolan (tel: 094 9366692; mobile: 087 2196930) email: tcarolan@southmayo.com;

Co Clare:

Eimear McCarthy (tel: 094 9366692; mobile: 086 0495041); email: emccarthy@cldc.ie

 

Published by Keep Ireland Open. KIO is an environmental organisation dedicated to preserving public access to our mountains, lakes, seashore and countryside.

 

Correspondence

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 : info@keepirelandopen.org

Links to Affiliated organisations

 

An Óige


Catholic Girl Guides of Ireland


Countrywide Hillwalkers Association


Friends of the Murrough


Irish Rural Link


Irish Wildlife Trust


Killarney Mountaineering Club


Scouting Ireland


 

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If you would like to inform us of any problems in your area please email us at info@keepirelandopen.org

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