to put your TD on the spot
Bill which Robert Dowds brought before the Dail on June 14 gives
members of KIO and all of us involved in outdoor activities the
perfect chance to lever a few TDs off the fence over public access to
You should ask your TD: Are they supporting this modest and
necessary change in the law? Will they vote in favour if it finally
comes before the Dail?
And if not, why not?
Irish jobs, the health and welfare of our people and their
basic rights as citizens will all receive a substantial boost if this
law were to pass.
There is little to object to. Compared to access legislation in
Scotland or Scandinavia, Mr Dowds’ proposals are conspicuously
So if your TD cannot put his or her full support behind this
modest little Bill, you deserve to know why.
Also, if this Bill cannot pass, all of those visitors who come
to our shores to walk, sight-see and visit historic monuments should
be told in no uncertain terms that Irish politicians favour the
continuation of a system where visitors on private land have virtually
no rights; where even saying that a route is a public right-of-way can
bring financial ruin and where publishing a simple walks guide can
land you in the High Court .
Ask your TD if he or she is really in favour of that.
In two minds. .
two adjacent notices spotted at Ballybrew, near Enniskerry in Co
Wicklow reflect a divided view over access—a bit like the Coalition
The Coillte notice at the front welcomes walkers to the woods
not far beyond the gate. The one behind, after dire warnings over
public liability dangers and the perils of farms, forbids access. The
nasty notice was put up
by a local landowner. It disappeared not long after this photo was
Access Bill stuck in limbo after minister signals
Private Member’s Bill introduced in the Dail by Labour TD Robert
Dowds in his effort to improve the public’s rights of access to the
Irish countryside has been withdrawn at its first reading.
The decision to pull it came after a ministerial commitment to
discuss its content at the powerful Oireachtas Environmental Committee
— probably in the next Dail term.
The withdrawal came after Environment Minister Phil Hogan made
it plain to Deputy Dowds that he would ensure the Bill was voted down
if the issue was forced to a vote in the Dail chamber.
The Access to the Countryside Bill has three important
components, all designed to improve Ireland’s access to mountains,
seashores, rivers, lakes and National Monuments.
It would empower county councils to declare public
rights-of-way over private land where this was seen to be in the
It would set up an expert committee to examine disputed routes
and it would clarify how rights-of-way can be created. The Bill also
sought to amend the law on public liability so as to provide
landowners with insurance cover from the State claims agency. This
last move has now been pre-empted by the Government, who are likely to
put an indemnity scheme in place following belated agreement by the
Irish Farmers’ Association (see story on opposite page).
Although Mr Dowds has lobbied amongst all the political
parties, it has become clear that the ultimate success or failure of
his proposals depend primarily on Fine Gael. He has persuaded at least
10 Fine Gael TDs that they should back his proposals, some of them
members of the Cabinet. He has the full
backing of almost all Labour Party TDs and Sinn Fein.
“Many in the Fine Gael party can see the benefits that better
public access would bring in terms of jobs, the health of our own
people and updating a set
of laws not longer fit for purpose. The problem is going to be whether
or not they will revert to a conservative mindset where they defend,
above the rights off all other citizens, the rights of landowners,”
Mr Dowds said after the two-and-a-half-hour Dail debate on his
proposals on June 14.
Leo Varadkar, Minister for Tourism, is believed to have
supported the Bill in Cabinet and Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, who
tried to introduce a similar Bill six years ago, is its most
enthusiastic ministerial supporter.
TD: His Bill may be killed off by Minister Phil Hogan and Enda Kenny.
A number of Labour TDs fear that the decision on the part of
Fine Gael Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to allow the Bill to
go to the Environment Committee without a vote indicates that he
intends to stall or even strangle it in that committee, which he
effectively dominates. This approach would prevent the issue coming
before the Dail for a vote and would thereby stop it from sparking
disagreement between the two government parties.
The changes to the law relating to county councils and their
role in registering and defending rights-of-way come under the
auspices of Mr Hogan’s department and he has indicated little
enthusiasm for the changes proposed.
Conversations in the past between KIO President Jackie Rumley
and Taoiseach Enda Kenny have led Jackie to believe that the Fine Gael
leader will not ultimately support any change in the law which would
upset the farming organisations — even though he likes to promote
the impression that he is an enthusiastic hillwalker. Mr Kenny
apparently remains nervous over the potential loss of a handful of
marginal rural constituencies where the farming organisations are
There are three key tests which will indicate how likely the
Bill is to make it to the next and most important stage—a vote in
the Dail Chamber. The first is how quickly it appears on the
already-crowded agenda of the Environment Committee. It is unlikely to
appear in the current session but the Autumn schedule would indicate
serious intent. The second test will be how much time is set aside for
a reasoned discussion and the final test is how many neutering
amendments are proposed and accepted in the course of those committee
read the Bill in full, go to www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?fn=/documents/bills28/bills/.
To watch the debate recorded on webcam, go to www.oireachtas.ie/ViewDoc.asp?DocId=-1&CatID=130
KIO funds appeal to keep ancient cromlech open
Keep Ireland Open has joined with members of the
Enniskerry Walking Association in Co Wicklow in a bid to
prevent a landowner from continuing to block access to a
registered National Monument.
5,5000-year-old cromlech, or slab grave at Glaskenny in the Glencree
Valley, was always open to public access until a Dublin accountant
bought a tiny cottage nearby and put up an illegal fence blocking the
route from a nearby road to the monument.
accountant, Dargan Fitzgerald, then built a house on the site which
was 57 sq metres—the size of many Dublin apartments—larger than
the structure for which he had received planning permission. Despite
the objections of several locals, Wicklow County Council decided to
grant Fitzgerald retention for the dwelling. The council made no
attempt to protect public access to the cromlech, which has been
registered as a National Monument since 1930 and is shown on numerous
OS maps since 1837.
representative of Keep Ireland Open met with Mr Fitzgerald and
suggested that he restore access to the monument and register this
access route under the Wicklow County Development Plan. He refused to
do this so KIO and the local Enniskerry Walking Association have
appealed to An Bord Pleanala to reverse the retention granted by the
all of the EWA’s meagre finances are tied up in their marathon
battle, now going to the Supreme Court, over a blocked route at nearby
Curtlestown, KIO is funding the €230 required to make an appeal to
Bord Pleanala. It could take up to two years for the Bord to give its
decision. Meanwhile, Mr Fitzgerald’s nasty fence has been partially
removed by locals.
Part of the
5,500-year-old slab grave at Glaskenny, Co Wicklow
IFA finally agrees to indemnity deal
months of prevarication, the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has
agreed to join the other farming organisations in welcoming a
Government plan to provide complete indemnity against injury claims to
landowners who open their lands up to public use.
The IFA, who had been calling for years for the introduction of just such
a scheme, decided last year to break ranks with the other two farming
organisations, the Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers Association and
the Irish Cattle and Sheepfarmers Association, in a hamfisted attempt
to force government to relent on a raft of other issues, including the
use of nitrates and farm inspections. However, at a Comhairle na
Tuaithe meeting held in Dublin on June 13 it was announced that the
IFA had stopped stalling and was ready to welcome the proposed scheme
under which the State Claims Agency will indemnify landowners.
reality, no injured member of the public has successfully sued a
landowner since the passage of the 1995 Occupier’s Liability Act,
which protects landowners against being sued unless they do something
which they know is likely to cause injury. However, the farming
organisations have persistently argued that the mere threat of being
taken to court puts many landowners off allowing public access.
O Cuiv ‘off the hook’ over Cong access case
court case threatened against former Minister Eamon O Cuiv by the
owners of a five-star hotel who accused him of breaking a court order
by joining a protest march about a blocked walking route has
apparently been dropped.
Mr O Cuiv, who in his role as Minister for Rural Affairs
insisted there was no need to change the law on access, was threatened
with legal proceedings by the owners of Ashford Castle Hotel in Cong,
Co Mayo. The threat came after he joined a group of Cong locals in
September 2011 who were protesting at the closing off of a
long-standing walking route through the 365-acre grounds of the
Castle. Some KIO members found it deliciously ironic that the
ex-minister might find himself caught up by the very laws he had
refused to reform.
However, Mr O Cuiv revealed recently that the case has
apparently been dropped. Within weeks of threatening Mr O Cuiv with
the High Court, the hotel’s beneficial owner, developer Gerry
Barrett, went into receivership.
No further action has been taken by the receivers. “I think
the case is dead in the water,” Mr O Cuiv recently told KIO.
Coillte sell-off plan bites the dust
Government has finally decided to abandon attempts to sell off the
harvesting rights of Coillte, the State forestry organisation.
The proposed sell-off has been a matter of great concern to
walkers, cyclists and many other outdoor users as there was a real
fear that access to State forests, which make up a whopping 7pc of the
Republic’s landmass, would be curtailed by private harvesters.
For some months a growing number of TDs from all parties in the
Dail had let it be known that they were unhappy with the proposed
sell-off, which was part of a commitment made by the Government to the
troika, which is encouraging the sale of State assets as part of a
programme to reduce Ireland’s indebtedness.
The end finally came when Fine Gael Ministers began to question
the wisdom of the sell-off after it emerged that it would probably
raise less than half of the €700m originally estimated and that up
to 3,000 jobs in Irish sawmilling and wood-processing plants would be
endangered if it went
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney confirmed that the sell-off
plan has been abandoned and said that the Coalition’s focus will now
be on trying to make Coillte more efficient by merging it with Bord na
decision comes following growing public anger at the proposed sell-off
which became evident at a high-profile protest rally attended by
around 3,000 people at Avondale Forest Park, in Rathdrum in Co Wicklow
on April 27.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org);
Deirdre Kennedy (tel: 071 9141138, Fax 071 9141162;
Martin Dunn (tel: 0906 488292; email email@example.com);
Maria Munckhof (tel: 066 9472724 -064 41930; mobile:
087 2957780; email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
Con Ryan (tel: 062 33360; mobile 087 0556465; email: email@example.com;
James O’Mahoney (tel: 023 34035; mobiles 0870556465
and 0870556465); email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
Pat Mellon (tel: 0404 46977; mobile 087 7888188)
Thomás Mac Gearailt (tel: 091 593410/091 523945;
mobile: 087 0521339) email: email@example.com;
Tom Carolan (tel: 094 9366692; mobile: 087 2196930)
Eimear McCarthy (tel: 094 9366692; mobile: 086
0495041); email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Published by Keep Ireland Open. KIO is an
environmental organisation dedicated to preserving public access to
our mountains, lakes, seashore and countryside.