“Access to the Countryside needs to be accompanied by Legislation establishing guaranteed and extended Rights of Way”
The chairperson of Keep Ireland Open (KIO) Robert Dowds welcomes yesterday’s announcement by the Minister responsible for Rural Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD of a €16 m. fund for the development of infrastructure to make our beautiful countryside more accessible to responsible recreational users whether that be in lowland, mountain, river lake or seashore settings. KIO hopes that there will be a major draw on the funds available from all over the country.
However, there is a major flaw in all the worthy attempts to extend and improve access and that is the absence of legislation to protect and guarantee such access. Nearly all the improved access is achieved on a permissive basis. What is provided can be withdrawn and there are plenty of examples of this around the country— in Cos. Wicklow, Kerry, Donegal and Mayo to name a few. We need to grasp the nettle and have legislation enacted which would have rights of way and access written into law. This is the case in other European countries including our nearest neighbour, the United Kingdom which enacted the Countryside & Rights of Way Act in 2000.
Legislation such as that would protect and extend access rights. This would protect public monies spent on improving access and ensure those seeking to enjoy nature in the countryside, whether residents of Ireland or foreign tourists, are not placed in a situation where they suddenly find unwelcome obstacles in their way. Furthermore, some of the new funds could be used to create maps that show off-road paths and tracks where people have a right to walk. Our proposal would lead to a win-win situation where both recreational users and the rural economy would benefit.
Contact: Robert Dowds, Tel: 087 652 0360.