Letter to the Irish Times from Rónán Ó Murchú, Cashelgolan, Portnoo, Co. Donegal 14th September 2023
On the topic of Public Right of Ways, again, I would like to bring to your attention the recently published Draft Donegal County Development Plan. The consultation process regarding this new plan has now entered its second phase and the public are encouraged to comment and examine its content. Missing from the plan, however, is the extensive list of Public Right of Ways and the associated county map that has been a mandatory part of every County Development Plan, in Ireland, since the late 60s. Donegal County Council has been aware, since June 2019, that the Old Cashelgolan Road, a listed, mapped, registered and well used public right of way that takes you to Cashelgolan Beach, has been blocked and indeed partly removed by the developers of a local Golf Course. The absence of the list of PRofWs from this draft development plan obscures the direction that senior executives in DCC will take in terms of dealing with the correct solution to this illegal obstruction. So far they have failed to act for the public good and their latest stunt, I believe, is a deliberate attempt to prevent appropriate comments by members of the public regarding this contentious issue from appearing in the public submissions. The public has a right to have their say at this stage of the planning process and this right is being denied to them by DCC.
It is particularly ironic today that the townland of Clooney, the location of the blockage on the old road, was part of the landed estate of the Connollys of Castletown House in Celbridge, Co. Kildare. The Connollys had four parcels of land in west Donegal and they had to sell them in 1867 to raise money. The tenants on this part of the estate had a registered right to pass over the adjoining Landlords estate to access the seashore for seaweed and food or continue further afield onto Cashelgolan. It would appear now that a public access to the Castletown estate will be shut shortly. There are at least two public right of way issues ongoing today on lands previously known as the Connolly Estate. We in Ireland abandoned the landlord system over a hundred years ago and many of the landed estates were divided up into small holdings and the small tenant farmers became owners of their own land. Over a hundred years after independence we are slowly reverting back to the old system of absent landlords being supported by the vehicles of the state. Our homes are getting smaller. Our population is increasing. Our urban population density is increasing. Public Right of Ways are being blocked by land owners all over the country.
As a nation we need to increase the area that is open to our citizens for their recreation. Instead our authorities are standing back or running away from their obligations to act on illegal blockages. We have a set of laws that prohibit the blocking of various types of public right of ways but we don’t use them and this is the weakness that is being exploited by the modern landlord.
Le Dea Ghuí,
Rónán Ó Murchú