Since October 2022 Keep Ireland Open has been involved in an intensive round of political lobbying with the aim of getting a bill enacted by the Oireachtas which would guarantee access by identifying and protecting existing rights of way and establishing new ones all over the country. It is our wish that such access would guarantee responsible access to mountain and lowland areas, to river banks, lakeshores and our coastline while, at the same time, protecting the rights of farmers and other landowners.
KIO lobbied the Green Party (two Ministers of State), the Labour Party and the Social Democrats in late 2022. In 2023 it has lobbied both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. We have been promised a meeting with Sinn Féin in the near future.
All parties received our delegations cordially. However, some actively expressed support while others were frankly non-committal. In party terms we got the most positive response from the Greens and Labour. The Social Democrats we met weren’t well informed on the issue of access though were very open to learning about it. The Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil people listened politely though with one notable exception, were non-committal.
The most positive responses came from Senator Pippa Hackett, the Green Party Minister of State, from Ivana Bacik TD, the Labour Leader and from Senator Emer Currie of Fine Gael. Senator Hackett was keen to try to bring a bill on the subject in front of the Senate, a move which would get support from Ivana Bacik and Senator Marie Sherlock of Labour. Senator Currie promised that she would work on gaining support from her Fine Gael colleagues.
Realistically it is highly unlikely that Access legislation will be enacted during this Dáil term. For that reason, KIO’s next course of action will be to ask each political party if they would commit to the passing access legislation in their next election manifestos.
Robert Dowds, Chairperson,
Keep Ireland Open. June 2023.