Autumn 2015

Newsletter   53                                                                                          Autumn   2015


A little victory in the long struggle

An 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).

 Both 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.

 But Kerry 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 times.

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.

 The 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.

 While 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.  

Bord backs KIO in Fenit fencing row

A 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 planning permission.

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 planning permission.

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 fencing.

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.

 We 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.

 However, 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

Reek row underscores the unholy truth


Croagh Patrick: No god-given right of access to the holy mountain

Much 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 reek.

It 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.

The 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.

In 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:


Your 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. 

Another related 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.


Roger Garland, Chairman Keep Ireland Open

Three 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

More 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 Garland

 British 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.

However, 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.

Coalition abandons Western half of planned Greenway

Cave-in on promised walking and cycling route follows opposition from landowners

No further: Part of the Greenway now open between Mullingar and Athlone

Hopes 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.

 Transport 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.

 The 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 decline.

 The 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.

‘Economic sabotage’

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.

 As 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.

 The 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.

 The 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 route.

 The 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.

 This 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.

 For 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

 Roll up, roll up to see the beach I stole

A view over Uggool beach, which remains closed to the public

The 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.

Gerard 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.

 ‘Ombudsman disturbed’

Even16 years later, it is worth quoting the final part of what the Ombudsman reported:  ‘Following 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 money-making project.

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

Shouldn’t that read “the blocked valley”?


Beauty spot on Atlantic route blocked off

Seven Arches at Portsalon: Public access is now blocked off

Coastal  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”.

 And 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.

Recreation Officers : a who’s who

Rural 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

Telephone Number

E Mail

Harry Everard                                                                                                                                        Kilkenny Leader Partnership Nore Valley, Freshford Loop, O’Gorman’s Lane 056-7752111 or 086-0485553
Inga Bock Donegal Local Development Company ltd. Bluestack Way, Sliabh Liag 074 9744937 or 087-9318077
Ann Lanigan Laois Community & Enterprise Development Co Ltd. Slieve Bloom Way 057 8661900 or 087-7749281
Deirdre Kennedy Co Sligo LEADER Partnership Company ltd. Sligo Way, Miner’s Way 071 9141138  or 087-2431942
Amanda Mee Roscommon Integrated Development Company Suck Valley, Rinn Duinn, Miner’s Way 090 66 30252 or 087-2775373
Una Doris Roscommon Integrated Development Company Suck Valley, Rinn Duinn, Miner’s Way 090 66 30252 or 086-7713550
Patricia Deane South Kerry Development Partnership ltd. Kerry Way, Cosán Cuas na nEighe, Hag’s Glen Loop at Carrountoohill, Beara Way 066 9761615 or 087-2031034
John Egan South Tipperary Local Development Company ltd. Eamon 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 052 7442652  087-0556465
Patricia Bevan West Cork Development Partnership Beara Islands, Duhallow Way, Beara Way, Sheeps Head Way (including Whiddy Island Walk) 027-52266 or 087-7712315
Pat Mellon County Wicklow Partnership Wicklow Way 0402-20955 or 087-7888188
Rosaleen Ni Shuilleabhain FORUM Connemara ltd. (Galway) Slí Connemara, Western Way 091 593410 or 087-7375599
Martin Dillane South West Mayo Development Company ltd. Western Way, Clogher Loops, Burrishoole Loop 1, Burrishoole Loop 2, Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail 098-41950 or 087-6681619
Eoin Hogan  Clare Local Development Company ltd. Burren Way, Wood Loop Ballyvaughan, Black Head Loop, Cliffs of Moher 065 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.



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 :

Links to Affiliated organisations


An Óige

An Taisce

Catholic Girl Guides of Ireland

Countrywide Hillwalkers Association

Friends of the Irish environment

Friends of the Murrough

Irish Rural Link

Killarney Mountaineering Club

Scouting Ireland