little victory in the long struggle
Bord Planála's welcome ruling over the hideous fencing on Fenit Island
is a necessary, if belated, step in applying the law as it needs to be
used to prevent similar outrages in the future (see story, right).
the 2000 and the 2010 Planning Acts make it clear that landowners
planning to fence off land previously open for the public to access
must apply for planning permission.
Kerry County Council’s assertion that the Fenit fencing was
‘exempt development’ was a nonsense from the word go.
are not the only local authority to hide behind this fiction in the
hope that they will not have apply the law as it was intended.
KIO has come across half a dozen other similar cases in recent
Ever since the disastrous Lissadell judgment two years
ago, local councils feel justified in abandoning their already feeble
attempts to assert any recognition of public access. This means, in
many areas, that nobody preserves what few routes are left to us. All
over the country, mass-paths, bridleways, drovers’ routes and local
pathways are disappearing without as much as a whimper.
rules on fencing are a useful tool but one which needs to be part of a
much bigger legal toolbox that could be used to protect public access
to our hills, countryside, lakes, seashores and national monuments.
we continue to lobby for that essential change in the law, Keep
Ireland Open will keep a sharp eye on illegal fencing. The law on
fencing is a small weapon in the war to keep the country open but, as
the Fenit ruling shows, it can be effective. We shall keep it
well-whetted and ready for use.
backs KIO in Fenit fencing row
section of the obnoxious Fenit fence
At last KIO can report progress against
three landowners who have erected an ugly industrial-style fence
designed to prevent walkwes, bird-watchers and anglers from enjoying
scenic Fenit Island in County Kerry
In response to a submission from Keep
Ireland Open, An Bord Pleanála has ruled that the fencing around the
perimeter of the island should never have been erected without full
Having to apply for planning would have
given locals the right to object, thereby preventing its erection.
The Bord declared that Kerry County
Council was wrong to argue that the ugly 2m high fencing, some of
which is electrified, was ‘exempt development’ which did not
require permission. It had only emerged that the council regarded the
fencing as exempt after KIO had pressed planning officials for months
to explain why they had not prevented its erection.
Significantly, the Bord also ruled
that fencing of any land which has been habitually open to or used by
the public in the preceding 10 years cannot be exempted from requiring
The finding overruled a decision by the
council to regard the fencing as exempt. The owners of the lands are
identified as an Ennis-based solicitor, Seamus O’Sullivan, as well
as Fenit locals John P Murphy, and Kathleen McCarthy.
The Bord made its ruling in July and the
eight-week period in which the three could have sought a judicial
review has long since passed. It remains to be seen if an application
will be made to the council by the landowners for retention of the
The fencing has meant that that while it
is possible tp walk around the island at low tide, there is no safe
route once the tide rises.
While KIO has always accepted that in a
farming area stock containment fencing is necessary, we will demand
that the fence bordering the perimeter path should be the kind of
normal farm fencing used around the country and that its top strand
should not be of barbed wire.
In addition, the fencing abutments running
at right angles across and blocking the long-standing path around the
island must be completely removed so as to uphold the traditional
access upheld by An Bord Pleanála.
will also demand that any
new fencing must follow the old line of the previous barriers
and that this line should be re-established in consultation with the
local complainants, the Save Fenit Island action
group, who are best qualified to advise on it.
if the landowners apply for retention of the existing fencing then
they now know that an outraged public, hundreds of whom have attended
protest marches over their loss of access to the island, will make
their objections to the council and that this could lead to an order
for its removal
row underscores the unholy truth
Patrick: No god-given right of access to the holy mountain
hot air was expended during the Summer over a perceived threat to
Croagh Patrick in Co Mayo as it belatedly dawned on the public that
they actually have no legal right to pass over large parts of the
seemed to take many media pundits and the public at large by surprise
to learn that access to the West’s holy mountain, like most of the
rest of the country, could be closed off at any time.
High Court has ruled in three cases over the last seven years that no
rights of way can exist across private land unless the owner or owners
grant such a right in writing. In other words, the various private
landowners and commonage owners over whose land the traditional
pilgrim route up Croagh Patrick runs would be perfectly within their
rights, under Irish law, to close it off.
response to the coverage of the furore which erupted over access to
the mountain in the Irish Times, KIO chairman wrote to the the paper
and the following letter was published:
second leading article in last Wednesday's paper highlighted the
catastrophic erosion problems on Ireland's holy mountain. Whose
problem is this? Is it the county council, the commonage owners or the
State? Nobody knows. Unfortunately, erosion problems are not limited
to Croagh Patrick: the main ‘tourist routes’ up Carrauntohill,
Ireland’s highest mountain, the so called Devil's Ladder, is also in
a deplorable and highly dangerous condition also mainly due to
multiplicity of co-owners. The problem was recognised six years ago
and seems to be nowhere near a solution.
Legislation is urgently needed to address the management, or lack of
it, of our commonages.
problem for those climbing the Reek is whether or not people are
legally entitled to access the mountain. Surely that must be absurd.
Unfortunately, it is not now simple following the appalling legal
decision in the notorious Lissadell case which held that a public
right of way can only be established by written dedication by the
landowner. The fact that the route has been used by pilgrims for over
a thousand years is of no relevance. I wonder did St Patrick seek
permission from whoever owned the land at that time?
Mayo County Council
have also played their part in muddying the waters through their
failure to provide a list public rights of way in spite of a mandatory
requirement to do so, thereby implying that there are no public rights
of way in the county. A simple solution to provide reasonable
access to countryside, long advocated by Keep Ireland Open, is to
adopt legislation similar to that in Scotland: freedom to roam over
rough grazing land.
Garland, Chairman Keep Ireland Open
more battles won
Thanks to a local activist supported by KIO, blockages to two
scenic beaches south of Louisburg Co Mayo have been deemed to be
illegal.We are pressing the ever-reluctant Mayo Council to take legal
proceedings against the perpetrators to have the fences removed
good news is that An Bord Pleanála have reversed the granting of
planning permission by the Sligo County Council for extensive fencing
in the Ox mountains. Our thanks to An Taisce for their help. Please
continue to send instances of new fencing in amenity areas to Roger
Ramblers give Ireland the cold shoulder over access
The British Ramblers latest holiday brochure - all of
211 pages - offer holidays in practically every country in the world
including 42 pages on the UK. Not a mention of Ireland.
We just wonder could it have anything to do with access
problems and those ever-so-friendly Walkers Keep Out signs?
The omission is food for thought for Failte Ireland.
With 123,000 members, the British Ramblers are one of the biggest
walking groups in the world. This has enormous potential for attempts
to boost the number of visitors here.
word from across the pond makes it plain: Unless there is certainty
over access the British Ramblers will continue to give their nearest
neighbour the cold shoulder. Understandably.
abandons Western half of planned Greenway
on promised walking and cycling route follows opposition from
further: Part of the Greenway now open between Mullingar and Athlone
that the government would go ahead as
promised and compulsorily purchase strips of land to complete the
Dublin to Galway Greenway have been dashed following a ministerial
climbdown in the face of landowner opposition.
Minister Paschal Donoghue announced in early October that the section
of the proposed cycle and walking route from Athlone to Galway has
been put “on hold” and that the funding for the Western section of
the Greenway will now be spent instead on developing the Eastern
section from Dublin to Athlone.
proposed route would have been a great asset to the communities
through which it would have passed, providing great opportunities for
safe walking and cycling for people all ages. It would also have
brought many visitors to a rural region which has long been in
opposition to the proposed route came almost exclusively from the
farming organisations whose real agenda was made plain by Irish
Farmers’ Association (IFA)
official Harold Kingsley, who said after the Coalition cave-in
was announced that the government must now put in place “a robust
package of measures” to compensate farmers who might be affected by
the development of Greenways.
This is, of course, a demand for compensation for
landowners – on top of what they would receive through compulsory
purchase deals – for allowing cyclists and walkers to pass over or
around their land.
Never mind that much of rural Ireland – and much of
the Roscommon and East Galway areas affected here in particular –
desperately needs tourism income and the jobs it has been shown to
bring. Never mind that there are 5,000 people on the live register in
the main towns through which the planned route was to travel and that
farm families and the communities in which they live would be the main
beneficiaries of the euros that would flow into their areas.
Small wonder that the Galway Cycling Action group
accused the farming organisations of sabotaging rural development when
the decision was announced.
far as the IFA and ICMSA members who opposed the route are concerned,
no change can take place until the public purse has been opened yet
again to induce them to allow necessary and beneficial development.
argument that the proposed route would have interfered to any
significant degree with food production is nonsense. A few dairy farms
might have been marginally inconvenienced but most of the land in
question is either idle or used for beef cattle or sheep. Much of it
contains nothing but rough grazing.
Eastern end of the route, from Dublin to Athlone, is less problematic
because it can follow along the route of the Royal Canal and an old
railway line. No such options exist on the Western end, where it would
be necessary to cross private land to achieve the most desirable
IFA once again showed how divorced they are from reality by proposing
what they insisted was an alternative route. This would have brought
visitors alongside the old N6 road and through a succession of bogs
and Coillte forests.
plain daft alternative was offered despite the fact that an
expensively produced survey of more than 15,000 visitors across Europe
led Failte Ireland to conclude that the two things prospective cycling
visitors want above all else is to be away from roads and travelling
through areas of natural beauty. The route proposed by the National
Roads authority addressed this need. The IFA proposal assumes a busy
roadway, dreary bogland and views of sitka spruce will do.
now, the NIMBYs’ ‘victory’
will simply mean that the investment promised for needy Roscommon and
Galway will be spent instead in Kildare and Westmeath. Some
‘victory’ for the vast majority of rural dwellers in the West.
RTE1’s ‘Ear To The Ground’ programme
at 8.30pm on Tuesday, December 8 examines the Greenway cancellation
and includes an interview with a KIO spokesman
up, roll up to see the beach I stole
view over Uggool beach, which remains closed to the public
dismal failure of Mayo County Council to open up the long-standing
right-of-way to Uggool beach in County Mayo
has now reached tragi-comic levels with the landowner who blocked the
route advertising guided walks over it – at €15 euros per adult and a tenner for a child.
Burke, who blocked off the route leading to the beach in 1989, has
never been taken to task by Mayo County Council, despite the council
being instructed in 1999 by the Ombudsman that access to the blocked
beach should be restored.
years later, it is worth quoting the final part of what the Ombudsman
detailed contacts with my Office over a period, Mayo County Council
gave me an assurance in 1999 that it was now determined to ensure safe
public access to the beach. The Council says it intends to do this
either by a compulsory purchase order or by the compulsory creation of
a public right of way. I welcome this development. However,
I am disturbed that it has taken ten years (Note; The beach
closure actually occurred in 1989 - Ed.) to reach this point and I am
greatly concerned that this delay on the Council's part has resulted
in the loss of access rights for members of the public over a ten year
period. I trust that the Council will now act resolutely and speedily
to restore access to the beach for the public.
The trust, we are afraid, was misplaced.
To make matters worse, public money has been spent to facilitate
Burke's venture. South West Mayo DEvelopment Company handed over
£10,000 of your money to pay for a feasibility study for his
The Wild Atlantic Way leads to Uggool
beach. You can pick up the brochure on The Lost Valley in the Discover
Ireland office in Westport. Meanwhile, Mayo County Council is making
no attempt to give back to visitors and members of the public a
beautiful beach that they once enjoyed for free.
KIO is now in the process of petition ing
the new Ombudsman for a full review of ots files on this perncious
case, and is submitting a revised and updated complaint. Burke is
advertising these 'guided walks' on his website www.thelostvalley.ie
Shouldn’t that read “the blocked
spot on Atlantic route blocked off
Arches at Portsalon: Public access is now blocked off
tourism in Donegal has taken another knock with the closing off of the
scenic Seven Arches area at Portsalon.
The area, famous for its sea caves and
rock formation, is on the Wild Atlantic Way driving route but,
according to local Sinn Fein TD Padraig MacLochlainn, access to the
area has been blocked.
Failte Ireland has invested millions of
euro in developing the Wild Atlantic Way but Tourism Minister Paschal
O’Donoghue, when questioned in the Dail in October, admitted that
the land access to Seven Arches is in private ownership and that he
“has no remit over how access to the land is managed”.
that, minister, is what happens when you route tourists to places
where no right of public access has been secured. Sadly, Keep Ireland
Open expects to see more disputes along the Way as landowners seek to
cash in by blocking access to previously open natural beauty spots.
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.