WHY PAY FOR THE CONOR PASS?
Concerns have been raised that a change in ownership of approximately 1,400 acres of land at the Conor Pass will restrict public access to this area of unspoilt natural beauty. Taoiseach Varadkar says that “the State won’t be paying €10m for it.”
It is not necessary for the State pay any landowner in order to protect public access to the countryside and nature. In Ireland legislation permitting a right of access the countryside is non-existent. Our few rights of way and permissive access to the countryside are under constant threat and challenge. We need new laws to protect and extend our rights of access for responsible recreation. As Fintan O’Toole highlighted (Right of way – the great unmentionable of Ireland’s outdoor recreation strategy – July 22nd) our laws are miserably deficient and concludes that “As things stand, we will end up investing billions of euro in projects that depend on nothing more stable than the individual goodwill of property owners.”
There are many precedents to the Conor Pass situation and almost every parish in the country has experienced instances where traditional walking routes and trails are now blocked by gates, fences and barbed wire.
Aligning our laws with prevailing norms in Europe and the UK would guarantee the right of the public to responsibly access and enjoy the natural, restorative health benefits of experiencing open countryside, mountains, rivers and seashores.
The Government should urgently address this appalling deficit in our laws and avoid having to pay ransom amounts to private investors in order to protect the right of its citizens to experience nature – a right that is guaranteed in law in most other countries.