Letters Archive 2007 – 2016

Comhairle na Tuaithe  and indemnifying landowners

 Letter to the editor of the Irish Times

  Published July 21st 2016


 You recently carried an article about the appalling state of the pilgrim route up  Croagh Patrick, which badly needs conservation works to render the mountain safer (“Group to appoint consultant for Croagh Patrick work plan”, News, July 6th).

However nothing can be done due to what Mayo County Council says are “liability issues”. We are  told that an interdepartmental group at national level is “looking at” an independent scheme for upland areas.

After seven years this is really a bit rich! This is the length of time that the Government-backed Comhairle na Tuaithe (The Countryside Council) has been considering a national indemnity scheme that would indemnify landowners from claims brought by recreational users.

In spite of support from all relevant stakeholders – farming organisations, recreational users, etc – progress has been painfully slow, primarily due to the over-cautious approach adopted by the Department of the Environment.

We are quite satisfied that the cost to the State of meeting claims would be minimal as there has been no successful case taken against private or commonage landowners since the passing of the Occupiers’ Liability Act in 1995.

This lack of progress is all too familiar to these of us who have long argued that Ireland is now far behind the rest of Europe in our dismal failure to protect access to the Irish countryside.

The signal failure of  Comhairle na Tuaithe to make any real progress in this regard must call the continued existence of this moribund and utterly ineffective quango into doubt.

Yours etc

Roger Garland,


Keep Ireland Open

Sale of mountain land in Wicklow

Letter to the editor of the Irish Times

Published  July 2016


Keep Ireland Open would refer you to the recent advertising in the Commercial Property Section of the sale of almost 5,000 acres of land in the Upper Dodder Valley Co Dublin above Glenasmole reservoir. As many of your hill walking readers will be aware of the importance of keeping this area, which stretches from Seahan mountain almost as far as Upper Lough Bray, open for access. We call on the National Parks and Wildlife Service to acquire this magnificent unspoilt amenity for inclusion in the Wicklow National Park.


Roger Garland Chairman Keep Ireland Open

Note for Ed See CBRE adv in page 7 on June 29

Regular activity

Letter to the editor of the Irish Times

Published on 16th Jan 2016


  We were pleased to read the Government’s recommendation (14 January) that adults need 30 minutes of activity five day a week. For older people, in particular, walking is the preferred form of exercise.

To encourage people to take regular exercise walking should also be a pleasant experience. Off-road looped walks through the countryside is the ideal.

Our network of looped walks is pitifully small compared those available in Britain and other European countries due to opposition of the farm organisation to walks going through private land even areas of rough grazing. The result is that walkers may have to make do with tarmac or boring state forests, mainly sitka spruce.

The fault for this lamentable state of affairs, lies solely with successive Governments who have failed to confront these organisations and legislate for the common good.

Its ironic that in 2016 as we celebrate the centenary of our first step towards independence, as far as the provision of reasonable access to our countryside, we would be better off to have remained within the UK!

Yours etc

Roger Garland

Chairman Keep Ireland Open

Walkers, tourism and rural life

Letter to the editor of the Irish Times 

Published on 24th Jan 2015


John G O’Dwyer states that the lack of access to the Irish countryside “is not the problem” when it comes to attracting walking tourists (“We need to breathe new life into fading tourism in rural areas”, Opinion & Analysis, January 22nd). He then goes on to say: “Of course, it would help the development of walking tourism if access to the countryside could be improved”.

Talk about wanting it both ways.

His assertation that the closure of more than half the B & Bs around the country is the big problem for would-be hillwalkers is to put the cart before the horse. The B & Bs are closing for a variety of reasons but paramount amongst them is the small number of tourists walking Ireland’s hinterland. Why? Because there is no certainty as to where they can walk.

Nor does Ireland have the network of paths, and pedestrian bridges  or the choice of walking books or established routes to be found in every other country. Why this lack? Because of uncertainty over access – an uncertainty born of political cowardice and narrow sectional interest.

A succession of governments, including that of self-declared hillwalker Enda Kenny, has continued to make a fetish of extreme property right, over the common good – the good not only of vissiting tourists but our own citizens. A modest Bill by Labour backbencher Robert Dowds TD was introduced in the Dáil 20 months ago. It was designed to make establishing rights of public access easier. It is currently breathing its last having been quietly suffocated in the dark recesses of the Fine Gael-dominated Oireacthtas enevironment committee.

Consider this and you will realise how wrong it is for Mr O’Dwyer to claim that legislating for change would be “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”. After years of the “softly-softly” approach to farmers, it is becoming obvious that only a change in the law will suffice.

The looped walks established with the aid of Failte Ireland around the country are indeed welcome. But they are a tiny fraction of what is needed if we are to open the country for walkers and to make it possible for them, as many of them want to do, to walk from place to place. It is a sobering thought, but the small county of Hereford in England has almost as many free-to-walk miles as the Republic. Meanwhile, the whole of Scotland and most of Wales is open.

As for John G O’Dwyer’s assertation that there are virtually no access problems here, Keep Ireland Open has dozens of disputed routes on its books. Close to my home here in the Glencree Valley in Co Wicklow, Dublin’s lungs, I can take him to six disputed long-standing routes within a couple of miles.

Ireland is not open for walking tourists. Until it is, tourism will continue to move t o the towns. Or to countries more welcoming to walkers and cyclists.

Your etc,

Albert Smith,

Keep Ireland Open,

Glencree, Co Wicklow.

Connected cycling trails and tourism

Letters to the editor of the Irish Times 

Published on 6th Dec 2014


John Mulligan (Letters, Dec 2nd) rightly bemoans the lack of cycle trails in Ireland and attributes this to purely local thinking. As a keen hill walker I am convinced that this is not the cause but indeed it is the mantra in local and government circles: “Landowners must not be distrubed”.

Legal rights for walkers and cyclists might possibly disturb landowners, hence only a vestigial infrastructure (off-road paths and t racks, footbridges, parking, signing, etc) for walkers and cyclists exists.

Never mind that Ireland has wonderful, remote scenery, or  that landowners have received billions ovedr the years from taxpayers. Never mind that outdoor tourism would benefit the local economy, or that landowners elsewhere in Europe have freely conceded legal rights to recreational users. Never mind the common good.

It’s shameful and so unnecessary but until government attitudes change I am privileged to do most of my walking in Wales, where the difference in attitude makes chalk and cheese look insignificant/

David Herman

Dublin 16.


Billy Timmins may question Alan Kelly’s choice of Greenways, (“Alan Kelly’s funding of Greenway routes, ‘a real slap in the face’,” December 1st) but Mr Timmins has missed the point. The key issue is connectivity.

Connecting local greenways like the Great Western Greenway to a national network is now of key strategic importance. Connectivity and a network is what will bring growth in this lucrative tourism sector.

The Tuam Greenway and the Sligo-Mayo Greenway projects are campaigning for a greenway from Athenry to Sligo to go on the closed railway route. If this were connected to the Dublin-Galway Greenway at Athenry and the Great Western Greenway in Mayo, imagine the boost to West of Ireland tourism, creating jobs along its entire length.

In the same report it was mentioned that a greenway in Kerry is running into problems due to landowners objecting. If Kerry wants to turn its back on a €4.2 million investment then let’s have the money redirected to where there will be no land ownership issues.

The closed (and unlikely to re-open) railway from Athenry to Sligo is in public ownership and so there is a 110 km strip of land crying out for greenway treatment which could be done very cost-effectively.

It is not rocket science is it?

Yours etc,

Brendan Quinn,


Co Sligo


Letter to the editor of the Irish Times 

Published on Apr 14th 2014


The blame game has started on the fallout from the Lissadel courrt case and the enormous legal costs involved as evidenced by your article in Saturday’s Weekend Review. It needs to be asked if there’s a better way of determining whether or not a traditional access route is a public right of way. Two similar court cases have been taken in Glencree Co Wicklow: again with huge legal costs.

Keep Ireland Open believes that the only answer is legislation which would provide a clear-cut criteria for designation of traditional walkways. A period of years – perhaps seven – of unhindered access should be the criteria. Alternatively, we could adopt the system of Freedom to Roam which obtains in Scotland and the Scandanavian countries.

Ireland is out of line with virtually all European countries in failing to provide certainty about where we can walk. This is major turnoff for our visitors and denies our own people the basic human right of reasonable access to our countryside.



Roger Garland Chairman of Keep Ireland Open

Letter to the editor of the Irish Times 

Published on Nov 14th 2013


In response to Fintan O’Toole’s article on Nov 12: and it gets worse…hill sheep farmers intending the fence the uplands are not being advised by the Dept of Agriculture of the requirement to apply for planning permission. We are satisfied that this is a deliberate ploy on their part. As hillwalkers will only be too well aware the hills are already festooned with wire. In few, if any cases, has planning permission been applied for thus rendering virtually all this fencing illegal. The EU are monitoring the situation and are most concerned with Government’s failure to protect our landscape. Unless we change course we could be facing huge fines. For the unfortunate hill sheep farmers, the phrase “rock and a hard place” comes to mind! Keep Ireland Open are calling on the Government to immediately reverse this crazy decision before any more damage is done.


Roger Garland  Chairman of Keep Ireland Open 

Right of way owned by the local council

9th Aug 2014


I came across your website while searching for info on public rights of way, there seems to be very little definitive rules/regulations and i was wondering if you could point me in the right direction of where i can obtain this info?

I am specifically looking for info on whether persons can bring vehicles onto a public right of way (vehicles have never previously been used on it)

whether persons can build a workshop/garage with access facing onto a public right of way therefor requiring vehicle access.

What are the legal implications of a local resident erecting a gate onto a public right of way?

This right of way is not private it is owned by the local council.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.



Access to Silver Strand beach in Barna Co Galway

17th Nov 2014


I wonder if you would clarify the laws of public access and right of way for me? For 20 years I have walked my dog around the shoreline at silver strand, avoiding the actual beach during the summer months in accordance with recent laws. Now there are fences being put up all around, and the land owner tells me that he owns the land “down to the water”. I never allow the dog to be near his livestock which are in separately fenced off areas, and many other walkers use this apparently otherwise unused land.

Can anyone actually own the shoreline? Do I have to pay to see land deeds? If your organisation can help with information, I would much rather pay to join you!

  Many thanks


Public right of way to be removed from Kerry Draft County Development Plan

3rd Nov 2014

Dear All at Keep Ireland Open,

I am asking for your thoughts and advice with how best we can protect some local rights of way that have been used for generations but that are now the subject of some controversy.

 Two of the t hree public rights of way of access to Akeragh Beach in Co. Kerry, that were originally included in the Draft County Development Plan, are now to be omitted or seriously amended.  All the information is on the Kerry County Council website under amendments to Draft CDP – rights of way.  Akeragh Beach is in Ballinprior, Ardfert, Co. Kerry.

  The notices went up on October 21st and the public has until November 21st to make submissions.  After that, a vote by the council will be binding.

  There are minutes to a special meeting in September 2013 that refers to “Department advice” that only rights of way that are free of dispute should be mapped on the CDP, citing the fear of litigation. This seems to run contrary to the Council’s responsibility to uphold and protect rights of way.  It also seems to me to practically invite and encourage objectors.

  A public meeting will be held at The Boathouse at Banna Strand tomorrow night (Tuesday 4th of November 2014) at 8:15 pm with a view to protecting these specific rights of way and ensuring the Council votes accordingly.

  Any advice or suggestions you might have would be welcome.

  Thanking you for your time,

Ardfert, Co. Kerry.

Draft Kerry County Development Plan

13th Nov 2014

Hello Keep Kerry Open.

Here in Kerry a local farmer has sought permission to omit 2 public rights of way across sand dunes which he owns to Akeragh beach (part of Banna Beach). We believe he wishs to create a golf course. A river divides the beach at this point and in order to walk from one side to the other it is  necessary to  use either row 3a (pedestrian) or 3b (vehicular and pedestrian).  These rights of way are historic and were part of the old road from Ballyheigue to Ardfert, they are also part of the North Kerry Way as advertised by the Irish Tourist Board.

 These points of access have also been used for birdwatching, fishing, seaweed and shellfish collection.

 The council itself must use 3b in order to dredge the river mouth to prevent local flooding. Banna Sea Rescue and other emergency services must also use them.

 Locally we have formed a group and are busy objecting to these amendments.

 If you could also do anything to help it would be greatly appreciated.

Many Thanks


Thank you – Not coming back to Ireland

6th Nov 2014


Thank you for this information.We were seriously considering investing in property in Ireland, but now that we’ve read this we are more in favour of investing in the UK or elsewhere in Europe. We are outdoors people, and the whole purpose for us in coming to Ireland would be to have outdoor areas right on our doorstep in which to hike and roam freely, particularly the mountain regions of Kerry, where we were most interested in. The national parks in Ireland are too small for us, and there are surprisingly few, so to be left with so little choice of “open” countryside is very sad indeed. The idea of walking somewhere not knowing if a hostile land owner is hanging around, or having access to a place that the the land owner can change his mind about whenever he feels like it, is very uncomfortable for us. It basically seems that people have no rights except landowners, which to us is a bit creepy and incredibly outdated for Europe.

I do wish you the very best in your efforts to change these ridiculous, dictatorial laws that are truly backward. Ireland should be ashamed of this!


Re threatened clousure of the countryside to walkers

21st  Oct 2014


in response to your piece in the Farming Supplement of Oct 18 on the threatened closure of the commonage and other upland areas by the hill and commonage farmers in furtherance of a dispute with the Dept Of Agriculture about commonage payments, Keep Ireland Open are calling on the Government to intervene in this dispute which has nothing to do with access to the countryside.

This threat is a follow on from the report in the Supplement of Oct 7 that the Wesport to Achill Greenway could be closed off. Even the threat of these closures could cause major damage to our tourism sector. If these closures were to take place they would also represent an affront to the rights of Irish citizens to reasonable access to the countryside a right which is available in virtually every other EU country.

Roger Garland Chairman Keep Ireland Open

Walking in Ireland

15th Sep 2014


I shall be staying at Cleggan in Connemara soon. Looking at the map of the coast I don’t see a path along the clifftop . I can’t imagine the land is cultivated where I am looking e.g east and west of Cleggan. Is it possible to walk in places like this?

Thanks for your help

TA East Yorkshire

Access to beach in Donegal

14th Sep 2014


I live in a place called Aghadachor which is near Carrigart in Co. Donegal. Our house, about 200 metres from a beautiful beach, is within a private estate. We did have a straight-forward route to the beach until a new commercial development took place. During construction we were using a service road to access the beach. The service road is still there but now closed to pedestrians by a locked gate and barbed wire fence. The owner of the development now wishes us to access the beach through a newly built Activity Centre. All of the estate is bounded by fences and locked gates. Entry to the beach by and through the Activity Centre is not a preference for us. At times the Activity Centre could be closed. Do we have any rights as residents within the estate? Can you offer any help or steer me in the right direction?



Thank you for your email and I do appreciate your support. Sadly, we have made little progress.

Access roads are still controlled by locked gates, the County Council are not willing to be involved.

Access to the beach is now controlled by entrance through the newly built Beach Activity Centre, other accesses are closed or locked.

The 200 metre Geo Tube which was installed on the beach is still there and is the subject of a court case by the local council as there was neither planning permission nor beach licence in place. Sadly, the Geo Tube seems to be receiving support from NPWS and is a serious obstruction on the beach, perhaps, even dangerous. It will probably be a long time before the case comes to court for a proper hearing. One of the local councillors, Ian McGarvey, is putting a motion before the County Council for an official investigation – but I wouldn’t hold my breath. I did make contact with the Minister for the Environment’s office but got no help, advice or support.

I am absolutely amazed and disgusted that a commercial developer can move in and do what he likes with the environment. The local press did carry a serious piece on the front page yesterday – substantial support has come from the Tirconail Tribune. I am aware that if I removed as much as a stone from the beach I could be subject to prosecution!

Anyway thanks for your interest.


Support for KIO

31st Aug 2014

KIO received an unsolicited email from a German citizen living in South America. Here is an edited extract from it

By chance I found a link to and landed on your website “Keep Ireland open”.

Even though apolitical by personal conviction, I just wanted to confirm from the perspective of a foreigner that your worries about widening denial of free access to the georgeous places of Ireland’s countryside are absolutely founded and fully justified…

I used to be very fond of Ireland’s country and people in my teenager days. When I

finished high school at 19 my step- grandfather took me along for a four-­week trip to the Emerald Island, and it was just fantastic! Breath­taking scenery and warm­hearted, hospitable people…

That was in 1987. In 1991 I returned with still very similar impressions. Then, in 1994, I came back again with my father to enable him to discover Eire. And back then, already, things started deteriorating as regards our key issue: At times we were struggling for hours to access cliffs, beaches and land­fingers: Everywhere that damned barbed wire!

Then I returned in 2011. . . on another trip with my parents and it was just disgusting! Shame on all those transforming Ireland’s natural beauty in a setting that makes one believe him or herself in a zoo! You feel fenced off from nearly anywhere. And where you might be able to pass, you have to pay. And not just a few pennies but exorbitant fees!

The Irish Tiger’s day is now well over and won’t return. And the Irish Ministry of Tourism bears much of the fault by allowing landowners to take advantage of visitors by squeezing crazy entrance fees out of their wallets and pockets.

Disgusting, outrageous, just perverse.

The toll will be paid by Ireland and its tourism industry: Visitors who are real lovers of the Green Island won’t be coming again. I am one of these.

In other words, your struggle makes sense,

I hold in high esteem your unselfish efforts to help return to the public what is their inalienable right, namely to enjoy God’s gift of the earth to all humans…

Warm regards,

Stephan Vogel

(German citizen living in South America)

River walk

9th Jul 2014


Just wondering if you can help! I live in Killorglin Co Kerry.  There is a river walk along the bank of the Laune (this can be seen on OSI.ie; – from Annadale along the bank of the Laune to the town).  This was built during the famine – probably by the Board of Works, for the people of the town.  It was used to water cattle: fishermen used it.  My father and his family used to fish there, in his youth (born in 1912). Generations of town children swam there and my own children learned to swim there, together with the children of the locality.  As far as I know it is a public right of way but I cant be sure of this and don’t know how to establish this.  There was never a problem with access but the landowner died some time ago and the person who inherited has blocked access to this. Can you offer any help.  I have contacted a local Councillor but haven’t heard anything back.

Any recommendations



Problem accessing  a lake

29th June 2014


  I’m having a problem accessing a lake I used to fish in the past and I was truly hoping you could be of help here. It is a small lake in County Monaghan I’m referring, that has wooden fishing stands built by a local anglers but it’s not accessible other than

through short piece of a farmer’s land. I asked the farmer for permission but it was refused to me. The lake I refer to can be found under this link http://maps.google.com/?q=53.924558,-6.676774&hl=en&gl=ie

I know this act refers to public access (http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/1959/en/act/pub/0014/sec0214.html as well as this bill that mentions 5m of land around any permanent lake https://www.google.ie/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&ei=1NGvU9jcJ6mv7AaQi4GoAQ&url=http://www.oireachtas.ie/documents/bills28/bills


I’m not sure however in practice is there any chance for me to access and fish that lake.

I’m a genuine angler, nature loving person.  Never leave any rubbish behind me, practice only catch &  release rule, show no antisocial behaviour and respect piece of people living around. I think the farmer is afraid of people leaving a

mess behind them, and blocking his entrance with their own cars. I have no intention of doing any of these and would be willing to even pay a small fee to show my good intentions.

As this place a hidden gem, clean, pure and very special to me I would greatly appreciate your help on it. Perhaps that farmer could be contacted by yourselves on my behalf. Other that that I think I could consider it lost from 

my point of view

Best regards


Access to beaches

30 th Mar 2014


we have a house in Downings Donegal with a lane opposite to a small beach. there is a house between the end of the lane and the beach. The land owner shuts his gate which then denies access to the beach. Where do we stand with this. ? Is the beach owned by the state?


3rd Mar 2014

Access to a lake in Donegal


Our problem around here in County Donegal, is with a local farmer who gates off ‘bog roads’ which I believe are public roads. We live quite close to a lake which we are now unable to access. When I speak to him about this he claims that there is no problem as we can still go through. However, he keeps a herd of cows (including a bull) on the other side of the gate, roaming free. He feeds the animals over the gate which means that they are always there. It also makes the, admittedly muddy, road very, very mucky. He tells me to push the animals out of the way which I am not happy to do – especially as they are eating! To be fair, I am not a country girl, though we have lived here for over 20 years, so I aim to be careful in relating to locals about this sort of thing. I would walk through sheep but not cows!. There are three derelict cottages behind the gate, up this track and he tells me that he rents the land off the owners. I am pretty certain this is not true, but in any case even if he did, he should keep the cows in the fields rather than let them roam free. The tarmac roads around here are very narrow and the locals do drive fast on them (curious 80K speed limit!), so it would be good to be able to walk off road. We need tourists here in Donegal, but this hostility is very off putting.

Is there anything we can do?


Politicians sympathetic to your cause

28th May 2014


Conscious of the upcoming elections I wonder if you have a list of politicians sympathetic to your cause?
I am looking to vote for such a polotician but I dont know who is in favour of reform of the land laws.
It would be good to put them on the website.
I am in the Rathcoffey area.



Access to beach

16th May 2014

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing in the hope that you might be able to point me in the
right direction or provide me with some information.

My query is in relation to access to Magheramore Beach in Co.
  I have been using the beach for many years and accessing it
on foot via a laneway that runs from the road to the beach (circa 500m
long).  Recently a planning permission notice was erected adjacent to
the entrance to the laneway and subsequently a “Private Property
Trespassers will be Prosecuted” notice was erected on a barrier that
partially covers the entrance to the laneway.  I contacted Wicklow
County Council in order to establish the meaning and implications of

these changes but they were not able to provide me with any useful

Can you tell me where I can find out the following?

  1. Am I breaking the law by continuing to use the laneway and can I be
  2. Have I, unbeknownst to me, been breaking the law for a number of
  3. How do I establish if I can continue to use the laneway legally?
  4. Is it possible that access can be denied to the beach both in law
    and with the erection of a physical barrier?

Any assistance would be greatly appreciated as I am very fond of this
spot and have had many years of enjoyment on the beautiful beach.

Yours faithfully,



Access to the sea

29th Apr 2014

Dear Sir/Madam,

My name is Dee Mc Laughlin. I’m a resident of Dalkey now for 8yrs. Local senior residents have informed me of a passage they used to use when they were young to the sea. The passage is right beside Sorrento Terrace, Dalkey, Co.Dublin. The small original gate is alongside the path right beside the terrace. A local deceased gent used to cut back all the hedgerows on the passage every year to ensure it stayed open to the public.
When the old gate is opened and walk a little down the passage, you are greeted by a massive metal door. Sometimes if your lucky this steel door is open. When you go to the end of the passage, the view would take your breath away. Its the most amazing view held for the privileged few. Locals have informed me they used to swim there and keep their boats. I would really appreciate if you could look into this.


Access to windfarms

30th Mar 2014 


Just wondering if access to windfarms has been discussed previously on any of your links. I am having trouble with a very irate caretaker(his uncle owned the land before it was sold to a private forestry company) on a windfarm which I use as a link from the Gougane Barra horseshoe to the eastern Shehy Mountains as a regular running route. There are signs on the gates suggesting authorised entry only, but I don’t usually enter the place via a gate! The man has threatened violence and I will avoid him at all costs in the future, but I was wondering how I stood legally where a large tract of land has been taken over by a private (but funded by the public purse via schemes) company. The land also abutts Coillte land on its northern boundary and the gate between the two is open 90% of the time. thanks for you attention.



July 29th 2013


A cara

North Mayo Cliffs

This magnificent 20 mile range of cliffs between Ballycastle and Ceathru Thaidhg, which rises to 1000 ft, is the last coastal wilderness left in Ireland. Yet they are hardly known, even in Mayo, and rarely visited these days because access is so limited. Apart from Downpatrick Head and the fine walks around Stonefield the visitor or walker has little chance to explore this awesome coastline. I was probably the last person to walk the full length of this remote coast, some 20 years ago, when it was unfenced and devoid of hostile keep out signs. Then I met Dutch and German walkers who were astounded by the views as were my teenage children. Sad to say I doubt if any Mayo children have walked this coast since. My mother’s people farmed on the cliff slopes and we wandered at will in those carefree days.

There are now worrying signs that wind energy  companies see this thinly populated region as a good place to erect huge wind turbines and there are proposals to erect a pumping station at the top of Glinsk, the highest cliff. I believe Mayo County Council has details.

I hope that your organisation will conduct a survey of these cliffs and enlist the support of Mayo walking groups to have this wonderful region protected as a Heritage coast.

I wish to renew my membership so please send an application form,

Mise le meas

Concerned local





Published  on Oct  29th 2012



We would like respond to the recent letter by a British Tourist – Paul Archer – about the dangers of walking on the roads in West Kerry. Presumably he was referring to the Dingle Way. 30% of this potentially magnificent route is on tarred public roads which as Mr Archer points out are, in may places extremely narrow. With more co-operation from landowners most of the roadway sections could be re-routed. Unfortunately nearly all the other Ways in the county and indeed everywhere in Ireland have similar problems.
Mr Archer goes on to say that Kerry is not catering for potential tourists. How right he is! Urgent action is required from the powers that be.


Roger Garland Chairman Keep Ireland Open

Butterfield Drive Dublin 14.




A message of  support  (Access problems experienced by English visitor)


10 Sept 2012


Dear Sir

I would like to add my support for the worthy aims of your organisation following a recent trip to the South West of Ireland. As someone who has walked in many parts of my native England as well as extensively in Wales, France and Spain, I was amazed at the lack of obvious access in the Mizen peninsula area of West Cork, especially around the coastline, and had to confine my runnning mostly to the roads. I’d bought the relevant Discovery series map before setting off and was confused at the absence of clearly marked rights of way beyond some trails that seemed to go nowhere in particular, and my concerns were realised on arriving in the area. We did, however, manage to find the Sheep’s Head way and did a memorable day’s hiking over ridges and along well-marked paths, which only served to highlight the stark absence of such access in other areas. So when people ask me about my trip to Ireland, I tell them what a lovely country it is but that I wish I could see more of it, particularly around the coastline, and that for the purposes of a walking holiday, they should go to Wales instead. So I would encourage you in your work and hope to return to Ireland when I have the chance to see a bit more of it.
All the best

Peter Demetriou

Walking in the Dublin Mountains

15 July 2011

Dear Sir,

As a supporter of opening up Ireland to the joys of walking and its potential for tourist income, I was keen to try out the initiative of the Dublin Mountains Partnership (DMP) in creating new walks in the vicinity of Dublin city. Their website was enticing with detailed maps of the new walk which links the Luas between Tallaght and the DART at Shankhill. A Dublin Mountaineer shuttle bus (with detailed timetable) meant that you could walk to the Hellfire Club from Tallaght and get a bus back to base.

I set out from Tallaght, and was very pleasantly surprised at the route taken and the quality and quantity of the direction signage. The landscape just out of Tallaght was spectacular and a pleasure to walk. However, once I left the off-road walking at roads near Glassamucky, the signs simply disappeared and I was left floundering. At this point I decided to end the walk and return by a road route to Tallaght.

When I contacted the DMP, they informed me that local farmers have been removing the walking signs from the roads in the area. I was also told that if I had proceeded to the Hellfire Club, that there would have been no bus to take me back! Apparently, there has been poor usage of the service, and with tight DMP finances, it had to be axed. However, this news was not made clear to me on the website.

With this state of affairs, walking will never become popular with the Irish and tourists alike. It is unacceptable that local people can remove signs on the public road. What is their agenda? With no bus, it means that walkers will have to walk back on the same route, which diminishes the walking experience. This scenario is so different to the walking situation in other countries, for example the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales . Everybody there, including local farmers, are all supportive of walking in their midst, and all gain by the activity.

DMP are conscious of these issues, and are trying their best to resolve them. I have no criticism of them (apart from poor communicating of the bus axing), and wish them well in their endeavours to open our wonderful countryside to the citizens of Dublin and visitors to Ireland .

Yours etc.

Eric Conroy,


22 Sept  2010


I spoke with you recently on a ramblers hike re a problem I had in Donegal earlier this summer. The walk in question above Lough Eske was based on one by Gareth McCormack published in the Sept/Oct. 1998 edition of Walking World Ireland. A walk covering the same access route is published in an in house publication of Harvey’s Point Hotel, “Rambles near Harveys Point” by Tom Phelan 2008. Both walks spoke of a walking sign at Edergole in the vacinity of some out houses, no such sign was to be found when I attemped the walk on 23/08/2010 In theory at the outhouses, which I found, it should have been possible to walk up a stony track towards the Doonan Falls and Lough Belshade. The gate at the entrance to this stony track was firmly closed and had a commercial red and white sign indicating keep out , private property.In addition written in marker on the sign was, no dogs, no walkers. It was very clear to us that we were not welcome. Hope this may be of help in the ongoing efforts to “keep Ireland open”

Colm Madigan. (Dublin)

23 June 2010


It has become late in the night now after I studied your great website  for quite a while now. And I would like to give you my thoughts about it.

I just returned from a week in Donegal which I enjoyed a lot. I did agreat walk to the summit of Slieve league and some short walks elsewhere. This was my second time in Ireland, after four days in the Wicklow mountains last year.

Round Glendalough I didn’t experience any problems at all, everythingwas perfectly fine. Due to this and as I’m coming from Germany (your website explains the legal situation down here very well) I didn’texpect or even think about any “access questions or problems”, not at all. So I was more than surprised to see warning signs along the roads,sometimes pretty aggressive, and in two cases I was even (more or less clearly) warned by hostel managers about where not to walk in the  surroundings (seemed to be part of the standard introduction). So for the rest of my holidays I dared not to cross any fence as I “felt” there
might be some issue. One time when I had the sudden idea to climb a hillto enjoy the view from the top, I ended up walking 5 km or so to find access to it. And eventually I walked the same 5 km back because I  didn’t dare to try another way down having no guarantee for being able  to get back to my car there. Very boring 😉

I still don’t understand what the situation really is and how much would  have been possible. But I think I can say that after this week that Ireland feels more closed than open to me. Unfortunately. I don’t like  to plan my (walking) holidays too much, but here it seems very  necessary. Also just a map doesn’t seem to be sufficient for planning because these OSI maps that look perfect at first don’t have lots of paths in the mountains included and (being aware of the access issue  now) they don’t tell where access is ok and where not. What to do? So I must say I was glad to read about how it is in Scotland or Wales.

I wish you much success for your work! So hopefully in a few years the
situation has changed…

Christian Koehn, Mainz, Germany.



Somewhere on your excellent site about the problems for hillwalkers visiting your country you quote the word ‘gomlwoman’ and then ask what does it mean. If no-one else has already told you, GOML is short for ‘Get Off My Land’ – or in a posh English accent ‘Get Orff My Land’. Hope that helps.

I am one of many people who wants to visit the summit of all the 2000′ hills in the British Isles (which of course includes the whole of Ireland) and the antics of Bull McSharry and the like are frustrating. And I know that there would be many other like-minded people who would want to include Ireland, if only there were clearer access laws.

My experience of farmers I have met in Ireland is mixed – you never know if you are going to be invited in for a cup of tea (or something a little stronger) or sworn at. Some of the farmers have been unbelievably friendly and generous – some have been distressingly rude. It is the uncertainty that is off-putting – do you try to avoid being seen by the farmer waiting at his/her gate or do you walk straight towards him or her for a chat and advice on the most interesting way up the hill?

These days I do most of my hill-walking in Scotland and I take it for granted that I can walk almost anywhere – certainly outside the deer hunting season. Occasionally there are still GOML signs but it is generally quite safe to ignore them. On those rare days when confronted by a Scottish landowner it has been enjoyable being able to say ‘I am sorry if I seem to have misunderstood the Access Code, maybe you could let me know how I have misinterpreted it.’

Martin Richardson


12 September 2008

Hi A brand new road is being constructed in my locality. I found out recently that there is a “mass Pass” through the field where the new road is going to go. Where do I start my enquiries about whether a Right of Way exists? And if so, how do I find out what the plans are with this new road, e.g. do they intend building a bridge or putting in a pedestrian crossing etc.

Many thanks

DM Co Louth


8 September 2008 New Zealand – 

Maybe things are not as good as we are led to believe !

Hello KIO

I came across your website while researching details of the Kerry Way, which I hope to walk next summer.

Here in New Zealand we occasionally have similar problems of access, though most of our well-known ‘tramping’ routes are entirely through National Parks. However, fishing access and easier routes to park tracks often run across private land, and at present this can be arbitrarily denied.

New Zealand farmers have similarly opposed recent legislative proposals for improved walking access, an attitude I personally find disappointing as a farmer and tramper. Apparently the ‘right to roam’ has been established in law in the UK in the last few years, and seems to be working well.

So I wish you well in your campaign! And I hope to have a good look at your beautiful country next year.

Regards Rod

Irish Times 2 September 2008 – Letters 

Denial of rights to walkers 

Madam, –

John G. O’Dwyer is right to mention the access problems in Irish upland areas (Go, August 30th). The legal right to responsible access on footpaths is the norm over much of Europe and carefree walking over private land is enjoyed by hill walkers and casual strollers alike.

 Less than 100 kilometres from Dublin there is an area with a dense network of footpaths, complete with stiles, gates, steps on steep sections, footbridges and suitable maps. Landowners are paid nothing for allowing access to their land and seem happy enough about it. This area is called Wales and it is far from unique in Europe and farther a field.

 Nothing like this exists in Ireland and we are all the poorer for its absence. The relevant Minister has spent over four weary years trying to cajole the farming organisations to grant access to the countryside, with predictable results: not an inch without lots of cash.

The time has come to remind them where their income comes from – the taxpayers of Europe and increasingly Ireland – and to force them to act with some regard for the common good. – Yours, etc,

ROGER GARLAND, Chairman, Keep Ireland Open, Butterfield Drive, Dublin 14. 

A Blast from The Past Email – August 2008

 Thought you might like this snippet from the book ‘Malachi Horan Remembers’ by George Little, published 1943. This is an account of the stories and memories of Malachi Horan who lived and farmed on Killenarden or Tallaght Hill from I suppose about 1860 – 1945. excerpt from page 15, quoting Malachi Horan.

“The Mass-paths? They were the start of half the rights-of-way in the country. They were often the start of trouble too. The landlords hated them. They were just the short cuts for the people and they going to Mass. There is one by the door here than runs from Killenarden to Callaghan’s Bridge (Fort or Bohernabreena Bridge), nigh on Bohernabreena. In my father’s time the landlord here – McGrane it was – tried to close the way. He was a sore man on the tenants. But my father and some neighbours got the law of it. they were advised to pull down every fence he put on the path, and that when he took away the stepping stones over the stream to put them back at once. This they did time and again. After many a row they won their way. McGrane was beat. There was a poet – Frank Sheridan – who lived on the hill here and he wrote a ballad on the head of it. I have only one verse of it now:

‘Sucess to Pat Horan and likewise Miley Keogh Who never flinched a single inch But travelled to and fro. Some went round the limekiln way, More went by Bradley’s Lane; And some of them they stayed at home For fear they’d vex McGrane’.

Says it all, don’t you think – excepting this is written of an access problem of over 150 years ago – seems we have just changed one set of landlords for another!!!

BD, Co.Wexford.


A correspondent writes: 

I was walking in the south-west after Christmas and came upon this statement in a leaflet published by the Kenmare Tourist Information Office:

‘Kenmare to Castle Cove Road walk it is advised to get a map for this walk as some of the signs have gone missing and are covered up by brambles and gorse’.

It seems therefore to be the case that there are two categories of errant signs: those that have been removed by landowners (‘gone missing’) and those that are covered by vegetation. In neither case is anyone going to do anything about it. Is this ah-shure-they-can-buy-a-map passivity acceptable in a country that has so few waymarked routes?’ She also notes: ‘On the Beara Way (and luckily you do not need a map for this walk) each stile has instructions for crossing it. Are we really so stupid?’

From: Summer 2008 Newsletter 


The four western tourism boards prefer evasion and downright fibs rather than tell the sad truth about Right to Roam in this jurisdiction

CORRESPONDENCE FROM a would-be walking visitor from the UK has recently come into our possession. The writer intended to come to Ireland and enquired as follows:

What type of areas is covered by Right to Roam legislation (moorland, rough grazing, coast etc)? How extensive is the footpath network in your area? If we do meet an angry landowner what steps will the county council, the police or yourselves take?

With one exception each of the four Tourism Boards he enquired from answered promptly and enclosed a lot of literature, nearly all of it irrelevant. None of them even attempted to answer the question about who to go to if challenged.

Cork Kerry Tourism required a reminder before replying. After explaining that there is no Right to Roam legislation in Ireland it stated ‘Some walkers however who belief (sic) they have a right have crossed private property without permission and this aggravated landowners …’

Our correspondent, equally aggravated, asked if it would be possible for the tourist board to forward a list of farmers in upland areas, give the locations of their farms and their general disposition so that he could get permission from each of them about the possibility of walking across their land. He answered his own question by deciding to go elsewhere!

Shannon Development stated that there are no access problems with the walking trails and admitted that there was no Right to Roam legislation in Ireland.

North-West Tourism merely sent a standard letter and made no attempt to answer any of the specific questions.

The West Region stated ‘With regard to upland walks in the region we have no issues with access as long as walkers are courteous and mindful and observe the Countryside Code of Ethics’. It went on to state that there is no formal Right to Roam policy. This last response is particularly worrying. There is a notorious access problem at Ugool Beach blocking an approach to Mweelrea, two problems in the Bens, and a noted archaeological site in Mayo that it blocked off by the landowner, to name but the most serious. These evasive and misleading types of reply might be fine in the short term to present an acceptable reply but if it is not factual Ireland’s tourist trade will inevitable suffer badly. Failte Ireland will be informed and we look forward to their response.


A woman running a trekking centre has emailed us with the usual problem of what she thought were rights of way turned out in effect to be no such thing, since they were blocked off by locals. She says, ‘I totally agree with you that these farmers are extremely short-sighted. I live in North Tipperary and am facing the uphill task of attracting tourists to what is a beautiful and unspoiled area. […] So, like many others who live in remote rural areas, I do not want to be seen to be actively ‘stirring up trouble’ over rights of way and in addition my business depends on my not being seen as a threat.’

KIO comments: This woman’s livelihood depends on having suitable trekking trails. She enquires if the local council will help her, but in our opinion they will do little or nothing. The other interesting point about this email is that she is afraid to speak out. Those with all the power, that is landowners, are in a strong position to stifle complaints. And so the problem persists.

The following is a recent letter sent to the Irish Times, but not published. It is from an American visitor.


Your recent article, “Is tourism turning rural?”, paints far too rosy a picture of Ireland as a destination for the overseas walking community. A walking guide from County Kerry is quoted as saying that “Ireland is a great destination for walkers.” Ireland is very far from meeting that description. The international walking community has largely given up on Ireland because of access problems which are unique in Western Europe. In contrast to Ireland, free access to the countryside in the U.K., for example, has resulted in substantial tourism benefits. The Scottish Land Reform Act of 2003 resulted in a walking tourism boom in that country which in 2006 accounted for £3.6bn (€5bn) in tourism revenue.

You describe the scheme to pay farmers up to €3,000 annually for allowing walkers as an “access breakthrough.” So far from being a “breakthrough,” this palliative will do little to improve the overall problem. It is another example of the government’s bowing to the perceived strength of the Irish Farmers Association, which is dead-set against any fundamental solution to the need for access to the countryside. See the website of Keep Ireland Open for a description of the lamentable situation which has existed for many years in the Republic.

 Despite misgivings I spent two weeks on walking holiday in Ireland two years ago. First on my itinerary was to circumnavigate Gougane Barra lake in County Cork. This walk is described in every Irish walking guide ever published about this area. At the top of the walk was an ugly new fence, blocking the way. That stopped my hike. I could have gone through, but there is nothing new about confrontations between walkers and Irish farmers – sometimes resulting in assault, as the walking community well knows. Until Ireland opens its countryside as has every other country in western Europe, Ireland will see only a fraction of the tourism benefits. You may indeed lure walking tourists who don’t know better – but only once.

Here is a recent e-mail from a member in county Cork

 ‘Walking today on land I always assumed to have a right of way I was horrified to find my path barred by triple barbed wire.

Crosshaven is the home of sailing in Cork, a once-sleepy village where we brought up our six children in great freedom and safety. Now it has “taken off” and a big developer is building hundreds of new homes on land through which many generations of adults and children walked to the village from outlying areas. The neighbouring landowner whose strip of magnificent beech woodland, ablaze with bluebells in May, has obviously felt the pinch of encroachment, and has erected the barbed wire fence, although maintaining the friendly style between the next property. So in effect, no children can walk to school any more, and the dangerous traffic at four local schools will continue to grow.

From Spring 08 Newsletter 

Another beach blocked off

WE HAVE RECEIVED an e-mail from a member in Co Clare who is rightly concerned about developer who is attempting to get the local authority to extinguish public rights of way to a beach. This member intends to take a case to the High Court and has asked us a number of questions, which we have answered to the best of our ability.

 He concludes: ‘As a result of a serious road traffic accident, I am a person with “severely restricted mobility” and since the rights of way I am referring to have been closed and obstructed I now find it impossible to access the public beach that I have enjoyed with my family for over 35 years, is there a legal duty on my local authority, and/or indeed, a mechanism in law were I can ensure that my right to access a public beach here in Ireland is maintained?’

KIO comments: We hope this case will not turn out to be typical of the casual way that local authorities treat violations of rights of way, of which the Ugool case, ongoing since 1989 and about which Mayo county council abdicated its responsibilities, is the worst example.

Sent: Wednesday, June 04, 2008 – From UK 

Subject: Scarcity of Public Footpaths in Ireland

My attention has come to the existence of your organisation via Mr. Roger Garland’s letter in the summer edition of “Walk” – the magazine of the Ramblers Association. I was particularly drawn to this as my wife and I, together with our two dogs, have very recently visited Ireland for the first time and, regrettably, were extremely disappointed with the holiday which we had due to the almost complete lack of public footpaths and/or public access.

We stayed in the Wicklow Mountains National Park and it seemed to us that with the notable exception of the walking opportunities at Glendalough the countryside is effectively closed to walkers. Apart from some signposted routes along gloomy and boring forest tracks the only other readily evident paths were the Wicklow Way and St.Kevin’s Way – both of which appeared to have much of their routes along tarmac. We ventured into Offaly, imagining from tourist information, that the Slieve Bloom area would offer some enjoyable walking but once again found that the area was dominated by dense conifer forest and that the Slieve Bloom Way is, in fact, a walk on the tarmac roads which pass through it.

We most certainly will not be returning to that area of Ireland but did wonder if we should, on another occasion, make the long trip over to the West Coast to see the undoubtedly beautiful scenery and, perhaps, have better walking available to us. However, in view of what I have since discovered about access throughout Ireland, it is now unlikely that we shall bother.

Good luck with your campaign to improve access to the Irish countryside – especially for the sake of those who live in Ireland but I’m sure that you need, if possible, to bring pressure to bear on Tourism Ireland to make them understand that many “would be” visitors must be put off as they do not just want to see the countryside from their cars – they actually want to be able to get at it! Until that happens, I am sure that Ireland will miss out on the revenue which a lot of walkers would bring with them.

John Wharton South Staffordshire, England.

Friday, June 13, 2008 – Letters 

Farmers and hill-walkers

 Madam, –

Your editorial of June 10th is misinformed and misleading. The IFA has never been asked to participate in the Dublin Mountains Partnership. Neither have we withdrawn from any walking or recreational schemes in the Wicklow or Dublin mountains.

The IFA has said on many occasions that farmers are prepared to play their part in developing walking facilities.

The recently launched walks scheme by Minister Éamon Ó Cuív is a clear indication of farmers’ willingness to be part of a network of walks throughout the country. The walks must be approved to the Waymarked Ways standard. A walkways manager has been appointed under this scheme in Wicklow and we look forward to working with him.

The IFA, along with Leader, Coillte, Wicklow County Council and a number of other bodies including the Wicklow Uplands Council, is a full partner in the Wicklow Outdoor Recreational Strategy. The objective is to develop a strategy for outdoor recreation in the county through partnership.

Lest there be any ambiguity, I would like to remind your readers that farmland is private property and public access must always be subject to the consent and goodwill of the farmer. – Yours, etc,

 DECLAN O’NEILL, Wicklow Irish Farmers Association County Chairman

(c) 2008 The Irish Times

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 – 

Editorial :Welcome step 

WE LIVE in a wonderful country with marvellous outdoor amenities. Many species of fish can be caught within the boundaries of Dublin city; the quality of bathing water and beach facilities has generally improved; the number of sailing and motor boats is rising and determined efforts are being made to improve long-distance walking and other facilities in the Dublin/Wicklow Mountains.

For the past number of years the Wicklow Uplands Council, with financial assistance from Fáilte Ireland, has worked to improve old walking routes and signage along the Wicklow Way and St Kevin’s Way. Now, it is joining with Coillte, local Dublin councils and other bodies in planning and developing outdoor recreational facilities through a Dublin Mountains Partnership. A recreation manager will be appointed, along with a mountain ranger service, and it is hoped to provide facilities for walkers, cyclists and horse riders on Coillte lands. Unfortunately, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has withdrawn from the scheme.

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and South Dublin County Council will contribute €100,000 over the next three years while Coillte has secured funding for capital projects. Connections from Dublin to the Wicklow Way will be upgraded and canal walks developed for less energetic people. Specially designated facilities will be provided for mountain bikers, scramblers and horse riders from a safety point of view and to avoid conflict with other users. Tourists and local people will be encouraged to make greater use of the area.

Coillte should be complimented for its active involvement in this and other outdoor pursuits projects. As a profitable commercial State company, it manages nearly half a million hectares of forest countrywide. And it welcomes nearly 18 million visitors a year to 11 forest parks and 150 recreational sites. Not only that, it is developing new recreational facilities and showing clearly that making money from commercial woodland does not exclude the encouragement of tourism.

The number of hill walkers coming to Ireland has fallen dramatically in recent years because of difficulty in accessing upland areas. At the same time, walking tourism in Spain, France and other European countries has expanded rapidly. Small local hotels, B&Bs and restaurants are losing out on this lucrative business here at a time when other employment is becoming hard to find. Coillte’s easy combination of commercial and recreational usage makes sense. Farmers should consider the needs of the wider community.

(c) 2008 The Irish Times Friday,

 June 13, 2008 – Letters 

Farmers and hill-walkers 

Madam, –

 The final sentence of the Editorial “Welcome step” (June 10th), which discussed well-meaning attempts to open up mountain areas near Dublin to recreational users, caught our attention. It read: “Farmers should consider the needs of the wider community.”

The farming organisations have made it abundantly clear over the years that they are as likely to do this as Attila the Hun is of turning up at a victim support meeting. They are determined to concede not a square inch on access to the countryside unless their outrageous financial demands are met. Not only do they not consider the wider community but they do not even consider the desire of their own rural community to diversify into agri-tourism.

We have long given up the hope that the Government will take on the farmers. However it could have gently reminded them of the billions they have got from European and increasingly from Irish taxpayers; of the need for suitable walking routes to promote health and safety; and the implications of walking tourism, where Ireland attracts less than a quarter of the revenue of its great rival, Scotland.

Until the Government gets tough we will continue to lag decades behind our neighbours, and all of us will suffer the consequences – including, ironically, farmers themselves. – Yours, etc,

ROGER GARLAND, Chairman, Keep Ireland Open

 (c) 2008 The Irish Times

Monday, January 21, 2008 – Letters 

Access to the countryside 

Madam, –

With reference to Roger Garland’s letter of January 8th, walking in Northern Ireland can be equally difficult. Here is what Robert McCahan, the local historian born in Ballycastle in 1863, has to say in a 1923 pamphlet about getting the short distance between Ballintoy harbour and Whitepark Bay (now National Trust property) in Co Antrim:

 “Whitepark Bay can be reached from the harbour (at Ballintoy) along the foot of the chalk cliffs during the ebb tide passing several caves in the limestone and also viewing the large number of partially submerged rocks which strew the coast.”

In fact the route on foot is only marginally tidal, but this is the not the main issue. A local farmer is now attempting, possibly for reasons not directly to do with access, to block the shoreline at each end of this section of the North Antrim Cliff Path, which includes the Giant’s Causeway, and close the existing stiles across two wet green fields. Moyle District Council states publicly that it has no legal right to intervene and has passed the buck to the CAAN (Countryside Access and Activities Network). This demonstrates the apparent inability to protect even traditional, well-established footpaths.

How far Northern Ireland lags behind the rest of the UK can be read (on the internet) in the paper on access to the Northern Ireland countryside by the Council for Nature Conversation and the Countryside.

This is not to overlook the active goodwill and generosity of most farmers in this area. – Yours, etc,



8th January 2008 – LETTERS 

Walking to Combat Obesity 

Madam, –

Kate Holmquist’s article “Off the Scales” (Weekend Review, January 5th) puts great emphasis on encouraging walking to combat obesity. Walking can be enjoyed by practically everyone, young and old, and costs very little.

Ideally everyone, except those living in cities and large towns where it is impracticable, should be able to find a nearby path, provided where necessary, with stiles, signposts, and footbridges. We are so far from that here that Failte Ireland can only aspire to having a walking route in every county! Worse still, many of the existing routes are on busy roads, and we can expect little more from any new routes. (We note incidentally, that 20% of the road deaths here are pedestrians; how many were people who had nowhere else to exercise?)

So where has this ideal been achieved? Well, it’s close enough to achievement 100km east of Dublin. In Anglesey, a county smaller than Dublin, there are 1,000km of pathways with all accompanying infrastructure. The same applies all over England and Wales and in many other countries in Europe.

The basic cause of Ireland’s paucity of suitable walking routes is an obvious one: the utter failure to tackle the powerful farming lobby by forcing farmers to accept a reasonable network of paths through their lands. Also, in your issue of January 5th, Noel Whelan lauds Michael Martin for taking the seemingly powerful smoking lobby. We all now benefit from his courage. When is the same courage going to be shown on this issue? – Yours, etc.

Roger Garland Chairman Keep Ireland Open, Dublin 14 

(c) 2008 The Irish Times

Thursday, August 2, 2007 – Opinion Farmers need work no more 

To enter the weird world shown to us this week by Teagasc’s National Farm Survey is a bit like wandering around a fairground hall of mirrors. Nothing is what it seems and reality appears as a series of increasingly grotesque distortions of itself, writes Mary Raftery .

Thus we are presented with the truly remarkable statistic that Irish farmers earn virtually nothing (a mere 2 per cent of their income) from the sale of farm produce. How can this be, you ask. Surely farmers exist to produce food and sell it to us.

Such notions are strictly confined to children’s storybooks. As every Irish farmer has long known, and the rest of us are only beginning to realise, farmers in fact exist in order to get money from Europe.

The National Farm Survey tells us that the average farmer in this country now earns a whopping 98 per cent of his or her income from direct subsidies. Roughly two-thirds of these payments to farmers come directly from the EU, with one-third being provided by the Irish exchequer.

The amount paid by the Irish taxpayer is set to increase in coming years, as we are expected to shoulder ever greater amounts of the financial load of supporting the lifestyles of Irish farmers.

Most of what comes from Europe is called the Single Farm Payment, and is paid out regardless of the economic activity of the farmer. It is based only on what was produced in the past. In other words, you can now get a great big pile of money for producing absolutely nothing.

This new way of paying farmers, introduced in 2005, was called “reform”. Everyone seemed to think it was a good thing. Up to that point, farmers had been subsidised on the basis of what they produced. So the more productive they were, the higher their subsidy. This in turn resulted in vast excesses, the obscene butter mountains and wine lakes.

So, to stop farmers producing too much food, it was decided to sever (or “decouple”) the link between subsidy and production. Farmers would now receive their money regardless of what they produced. In other words, they get money for nothing – at least in theory.

The proportion of farmers’ incomes shelled out directly by the Irish Government is made up of a number of different schemes. The most notorious of these is called the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, which is largely a great wheeze whereby we managed to have almost the entire country declared “disadvantaged” in order to get money from Europe. The joke of course is now on us – with the European contribution diminishing over time, we have to pay more and more of this ourselves.

The only other equivalent for the transfer of such large amounts of money from the State to any one group of people is through the various social welfare schemes. These at least have the virtue of being accurately described as designed to assist the needy.

The subsidies for farmers, on the other hand, masquerade as an entirely normal part of agricultural activity. It would perhaps be more honest to state baldly that farmers in this country are almost wholly dependent on social welfare payments. It is these farm social welfare payouts that are negotiated under the national wage agreements, where they go under the grandiose title of the Rural Development Programme.

Last year, in the charade that constituted the farming element of the social partnership talks, the Government fell over itself to beg the farmers to accept almost €7 billion under this fund.

There was no concept of farmers giving anything in return, not even a willingness, for instance, to allow the taxpayers who support them so generously a right of access to cross their land while walking in the countryside.

In the Byzantine world of Irish agriculture, it is strange but true that some sectors would actually make more money if they entirely ceased all economic activity. This applies particularly to beef and sheep producers – the National Farm Survey tells us that almost 150 per cent of their income comes from State subsidies.

Confusing as it may appear to be able to earn more than 100 per cent of your income, what this in fact means is that these sectors make significant losses from production, which are then covered by a part of their subsidies.

However, since the subsidies remain static, the elimination of production would mean that the income of these farmers would actually increase.

And if that is not bizarre enough, next year’s survey is likely to present us with the most extraordinary reality of all. Year after year, the amount of direct subsidy as a proportion of farmers’ incomes has risen. It is now only a matter of months until more than 100 per cent of farm income across the board will come from subsidies.

It will then be official – Irish farming is a profoundly uneconomic activity, surviving only on the backs of taxpayers. We need to start asking tough questions about exactly what we are paying for and why.

(c) 2007 The Irish Times

From Autumn 07 Newsletter

We recently received a complaint that South Tipperary County Council have blocked off the 6km footpath section of the Tipperary Heritage Trail between Golden and Cashel from 1st October to 31st March because of what is described as ‘flooding’. It’s hard to believe that this path is blocked for so long (presumably each year) and why the council consider that no similar flooding could occur at any other time. It looks like a case of the council covering its back and to hell with the public.

This is not the first time that a county council has blocked off one the very few public rights of way in this country. You may recall that Wicklow County Council blocked off the entire 5km of the Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk because of the subsidence of a few metres near Greystones. The least that would be expected in both these cases is that the council would warn walkers that they walk this route at their own risk. Better still they might take action to eliminate the hazard. We have asked South Tipperary County Council for an explanation and have suggested that they take steps to ensure that this section remains permanently open.


Monday, July 23, 2007 – Letters 

Access to the countryside 

Madam, –

The last sentence of your perceptive Editorial “Walk this way” (July 16th) certainly hit the nail on the head. Referring to the obdurate attitude of the farming organisations to countryside access, it states: “If a group of absentee landlords were involved, there would be no question of shilly-shallying.”

A strong case could be made that Irish farming organisations now present a similar case to their absentee landlord predecessors in the 19th century. Present-day farmers have the law entirely on their side, are totally heedless of the common good, have no regard for those in their midst who might want to improve their lot (in this case rural folk who might want to diversify into agri-tourism) and are the benefactors of huge largesse for which they do not have to lift a finger.

It is apparent to everyone who has had to deal with them that enticements only lead to further demands – apparent, rather, to everyone but the relevant Minister, Éamon Ó Cuív. After three years and more of shilly-shallying, it is high time he appealed over the farmers’ heads to the general public and then introduced suitable legislation to give recreational users legal rights to access land.

Anything else is a waste of time. – Yours, etc,

 NOEL BARRY, Secretary, Enniskerry Walking Association, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow .

(c) 2007 The Irish Times

Saturday, July 21, 2007 – Letters 

Access to the countryside 

Madam, –

I found it depressing to read your Editorial of July 16th, “Walk this way”, because I know it reflects accurately the state of affairs concerning land access in Ireland. I would urge Pádraig Walshe and the IFA to reconsider their position and look no further than the excellent leadership displayed by Joe Rea in 1986/87 when he put sectional interests to one side and acted in the common good.

Mr Walshe and IFA leaders should be aware that they have title to their lands today because of the Land Acts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They came about as a result of Parnell’s and Davitt’s Land League agitation of the 1870s and 1890s.

One of the local leaders who suffered as a result of this campaign was my great grand uncle, Henry O’Mahony of Ballydehob. He was one of the leaders imprisoned under the Coercion Act of 1881. On release from prison after two years he was forced to sell his farm at Kilcoe at great loss and emigrate to Texas. The freedom of the American West suited him and he ended up with a large cattle ranch in the north-west Texas Panhandle.

Last year my wife and I travelled there for the 100th birthday of his granddaughter. While there the same freedom was afforded us and we were able to ramble the pathways and headlands of the O’Mahony and neighbouring ranches. There were no restrictions or charges and we were made welcome everywhere.

Mr Walshe and IFA leaders would deny us the same rights in Ireland. I doubt that Parnell, Davitt, O’Mahony and others made such sacrifices 130 years ago for this state of affairs to apply in the Ireland of today.

Farmers of today have made great benefits from our EU membership. All that is being asked of them now is to apply the same conditions regarding land access to hills, mountains and uncultivated land as applies in the other member-states. Failure to do so could very well mean that they will be remembered in history as a worse lot than those awful greedy absentee landlords they replaced. – Yours, etc,

HENRY QUIRKE, Skeagh, Schull, Co Cork. 

(c) 2007 The Irish Times

Friday, July 20, 2007 – Letters 

Access to the countryside 

Madam, –

While the reaction of the IFA and other farming organisations to the report of the expert group on recreational access to the countryside set up by Minister Ó Cuív is profoundly depressing, it was, I suggest, historically predicted.

The Irish Land League was set up in the 19th century with a primary aim of abolishing “landlordism” in Ireland and enabling tenant farmers to own the land they worked on. It is with sadness I quote the negative thoughts of one of the Land League leaders, Matthew Harris, when he said:

“When the farmers would be emancipated and get their lands, such men would look on the boundary of their lands as the boundary of their country, because farmers as a rule are very selfish men.”

Given the negative attitude of the farming organisations to reasonable proposals for recreational access to the countryside it would seem that his prediction has proved true, and a new “landlordism” is alive and well in 21st-century Ireland.

In my opinion, the Minister has little choice but to follow the radical approach taken by the 19th-century Land League. He must legislate now for the right of our citizens, and visitors, to enjoy our recreational heritage, just as Michael Davitt fought for the economic rights of the current landowners’ predecessors. – Yours, etc,

 MIKE KEYES, Greenpark Avenue, South Circular Road, Limerick. 

(c) 2007 The Irish Times


Ruari Quinn (First on left) at KIO's AGM 2008
Ruari Quinn (First on left) at KIO’s AGM 2008



KIO AGM 2008 - Chairman's Address by Jackie Rumley, President KIO. Also in picture, Roger Garland, Chairman KIO and Minister O'Cuiv, guest speaker
KIO AGM 2008 – Chairman’s Address by Jackie Rumley, President KIO. Also in picture, Roger Garland, Chairman KIO and Minister O’Cuiv, guest speaker

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 – Letters 

Access to the countryside 

Madam, –

The report of the expert group to examine and make recommendations on the legal issues of land access for recreational use is an important contribution to our debate.

Mr Eamon Ó Cuív, Minister for Community , Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, established Comhairle Na Tuaithe in 2004 to address the three priority issues of (1) access to the countryside; (2) developing a countryside code; and (3) developing a countryside recreation strategy.

Significant progress on these matters has been blocked by the question of access, land ownership and financial payment. Meanwhile rural tourism stagnates and existing access to the countryside is being curtailed.

The expert group consisted of a senior counsel and officials from the office of the Attorney General, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, and the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Legislation is required to clarify the position.

Labour’s Access to the Countryside Bill 2007, published this spring, anticipated the findings of the expert group and serves as the basis for a sensible and measured discussion about how we can proceed together (www.labour.ie/policy/listing.html). Farming organisations, particularly the IFA, should now show constructive leadership on this issue.

Without legal certainty Comhairle Na Tuaithe cannot implement its National Countryside Recreation Strategy.

Failure by farming interests to make progress on this issue now that we have the expert group’s report will be bad for rural Ireland’s economy, bad for tourism and a major setback to the hundreds of thousands of Irish men and women who simply want to enjoy the countryside of their native land. – Yours, etc,

RUAIRI QUINN TD, Dail Eireann, Dublin 2

(c) 2007 The Irish Times


Tuesday, July 17, 2007 – Letters 

Walking in Connemara 

Madam, –

Éamon Ó Cuív, Minister for Cummunity, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, has the gall to include walking as a tourist attraction in Connemara (“Building an attractive tourist trap”, Features, July 13th).

The article mentions the enormous income of £1.1 billion a year generated by tourism in the English Lake District, much of which derives from walkers. While we in Keep Ireland Open readily accept that there are great differences between Connemara and the Lake District (the latter is far larger and more accessible, though Connemara is just as scenic), just look at the contrast in the facilities provided for walkers in the two regions.

In the Lake District everything that can be done to attract walking tourists has been done. The infrastructure is there in the form of car-parks, signposts indicating walking routes, footpaths, footbridges and stiles. Excellent maps indicate rights of way and there are large areas where walkers know they can wander freely. There are plenty of guidebooks for walkers.

And Connemara? Except for the tiny National Park around Letterfrack, virtually nothing has been done to facilitate walkers. The absence of any legal framework to allow access to the countryside means that walkers can be turned back by landowners for any reason or none. This is bad enough of itself but it also means that little or no infrastructure can be provided and even authors of guidebooks face the unhappy prospect of having to abandon routes if any local landowner objects.

All these deficiencies stem from the lack of a legal framework. And this stems from the failure of Mr Ó Cuív, the Minister charged with facilitating access to the countryside, to take any effective action to curb the power of landowners. He can try to cajole farmers till the cows come home, but until he challenges them he is wasting his time and depriving Ireland of a profitable source of income. – Yours, etc,

ROGER GARLAND, Chairman, Keep Ireland Open

(c) 2007 The Irish Times


IRISH TIMES LETTERS/OPINION Friday 07 July 2007 – Letters 

‘Assault on Rights’ IFA (Irish Farmers Association) says the recreational land use report is an ‘assault on rights’ A Government-commissioned report has suggested that the State can legislate to allow for access to land for recreational purposes without giving landowners a right to seek compensation. The report was last night described as “an outrageous assault on property rights” by the Irish Farmers’ Association which said its recommendations were “tantamount to nationalisation”.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007 – Letters Legislate for Access to the countryside 


I welcome the news that a Government-commissioned report has suggested that the State can legislate for access to land for recreational purposes without giving landowners a right to seek compensation (The Irish Times, July 6th). As a member of a large walking club with 610 members, we would love to know that we can have access to the Irish uplands to enjoy one of the oldest sports in the world: hill walking.

We are a group of people who are conscientious in our pursuit of hill-walking. We do not damage fencing, leave gates open, bring dogs with us, nor frighten cattle. We ask permission of land owners if it appears we are approaching too near their dwellings. In this era of greater environmental consciousness, hill-walkers tread lightly with their carbon footprint.

Our sport is a healthy one that can be enjoyed without any great outlay of money. It is also a growing area of tourism, appealing to many of the visitors who come to enjoy the unique Irish countryside.

Contrary to the view of IFA president Pádraig Walshe, we do not see ourselves in contravention of Article 43.2 of the Constitution nor in any way “attempting to abolish the general right of private ownership.” We merely want to walk across open countryside, such as moorland, commonage, bog or high open countryside, and never to trespass on crops or interfere in the least with the livelihoods of hill farmers. I want to assure Irish landowners and farmers that we have absolutely no desire to interfere with people’s ownership of their land. I fail to see the connection between access to the countryside and “the general right to transfer, bequeath and inherit property”, as also mentioned in the Constitution.

While Mr Walshe may consider negotiation as the way to establish access to the hills, previous discussions have resulted in stalemate and the legal route thus appears as the only way left to establish rights to enjoy the open countryside. –

Yours, etc,

KATHLEEN FORDE, Iveragh Road, Gaeltacht Park, Dublin 9. 

(c) 2007 The Irish Times

Monday, July 16, 2007 – Opinion

Walk this way 

After years of fruitless negotiation, during which rural-based tourism suffered serious decline, the Minister for Rural, Community and Gaeltacht Affairs, Éamon Ó Cuív, has a responsibility to legislate for free access to mountainous and uncultivated areas.

Established walking routes have been closed off and visitors have been threatened in a highly damaging campaign for compensation led by farm leaders. It is time that clarity and balance was brought to the issue.

Walking and hiking holidays generate about €200 mllion a year in tourism revenues. But, at a time when the activity is growing rapidly in Britain and Europe, numbers visiting Ireland have fallen by an estimated 20 per cent. No local or tourist wants to experience threats or abuse while enjoying the countryside. But that has become an unfortunate reality in some areas. And the word has gone out that Ireland is no longer a welcoming destination for walkers.

A report commissioned by Mr Ó Cuív has confirmed that the State can legislate for recreational access to land without giving landowners a right to seek compensation. It found that a statutory right to roam would be inappropriate near dwelling houses, over cultivated land or through immature plantations. It should, however, be provided on mountains and fields and in existing laneways designed to give access to the sea, mountains, forests or fields without a right to compensation. The document has gone to Comhairle na Tuaite for consideration.

IFA president Pádraig Walshe described this limited right to roam as an assault on constitutional property rights and “tantamount to nationalisation”. Such an over-the-top reaction is disappointing. But it reflects the abrasive campaign for special access payments which caused the IFA to threaten to close major hill-walking routes in Cork and Kerry last year.

Private property rights are important. And they should be protected. But the public good has to take precedence when these interests come into conflict. In this instance, the right of Irish citizens and foreign visitors alike to enjoy the open countryside in a responsible way should be clearly established by law. After all, the taxes of these same people will help to fund a €6.8 billion package for the development of farms and rural communities during the next seven years.

The situation has dragged on for too long. Now that the general election is over, Mr Ó Cuív should take account of the public interest and legislate accordingly. If a group of absentee landlords was involved, there would be no question of shilly-shallying.

(c) 2007 The Irish Times

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 – Letters 

Walking in Connemara 

Madam, –

Éamon Ó Cuív, Minister for Cummunity, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, has the gall to include walking as a tourist attraction in Connemara (“Building an attractive tourist trap”, Features, July 13th).

The article mentions the enormous income of £1.1 billion a year generated by tourism in the English Lake District, much of which derives from walkers. While we in Keep Ireland Open readily accept that there are great differences between Connemara and the Lake District (the latter is far larger and more accessible, though Connemara is just as scenic), just look at the contrast in the facilities provided for walkers in the two regions.

In the Lake District everything that can be done to attract walking tourists has been done. The infrastructure is there in the form of car-parks, signposts indicating walking routes, footpaths, footbridges and stiles. Excellent maps indicate rights of way and there are large areas where walkers know they can wander freely. There are plenty of guidebooks for walkers.

And Connemara? Except for the tiny National Park around Letterfrack, virtually nothing has been done to facilitate walkers. The absence of any legal framework to allow access to the countryside means that walkers can be turned back by landowners for any reason or none. This is bad enough of itself but it also means that little or no infrastructure can be provided and even authors of guidebooks face the unhappy prospect of having to abandon routes if any local landowner objects.

All these deficiencies stem from the lack of a legal framework. And this stems from the failure of Mr Ó Cuív, the Minister charged with facilitating access to the countryside, to take any effective action to curb the power of landowners. He can try to cajole farmers till the cows come home, but until he challenges them he is wasting his time and depriving Ireland of a profitable source of income. – Yours, etc,

ROGER GARLAND, Chairman, Keep Ireland Open

(c) 2007 The Irish Times



And here’s a recent email about another area barred to walkers ….. ‘We have been walking an area around Renville point, Oranmore, Co Galway for 30 years. This walk starts in Renville Park through the woods, through a golf course, and then down to the sea around the point and back past the Galway Bay Sailing Club. Recently the Golf Club has started to fence off the access to the shore. This club was originally built with EU public money – we therefore feel that the Golf Club should facilitate access to the public for walking. It is only 5/10 mins through the Course area and there is a track that the Club has for access to their greens. So no-one is walking on the actual course as such. Last Sunday we were advised that we were trespassing on private property. This seems a mean minded attitude – and possibly illegal? Surely the land is big enough to accommodate walkers and golfers? We would be interested in your comments and advice.’ [Name and address given].

KIO comment: we are investigating this one but the signs are not good. If we are correct, unless the landowner specifically dedicates a right of way to the public, it can be walked for 30 years, as in this case, or indeed 300 and it still does not constitute a right of way.]


Subject :Access Problems around Dingle 

The first of these problems (Ballymacadoyle) is one that we have not heard of before; the second is better known as Glaninchiquin and has been an issue for years. These quotes are from a website run by a British group interested in climbing mountains that are covered by a complicated definition which we do not profess to understand.

Across the Irish Sea last week I encountered my first instance of an access charge (not just a parking fee). […] – Ballymacadoyle Hill on the south side of Dingle Harbour. Is anyone else aware of other hills that you have to pay to walk up? This is getting to be a disease, and is blighting trips to what is normally a welcoming country. Kerry seems to be a hot spot – I have encountered leaflets in pubs for two hills – one describing a wonderful ridge as good value for 4 euro. [..] on Beara , Coomainha has a ‘park’ with an entrance charge -found out the hard way when driving up the road one evening, arriving at closing time, to be faced at the road end by a foul gomlwoman (sic, anyone know what this means?) who wanted the entry free to turn the car. I remained polite and friendly in the face of some of the rudest behaviour I have ever witnessed. Hope to God I never face that in the classroom. The park looked good – but needless to say I went elsewhere the following day. How much do the pirates want at Dingle […]. A good sea mist would help there I suppose.

KIO comment: So, probably a few more hill walking visitors lost to Ireland, plus their friends and those who read this website.

Email: Subject: 

Greedy Farmers 

Hi Recently walking on the Beara Hills in Kerry I decided to descend via Glen Inchiquin ,three or four Kilometres west of Tuosist. As I started my descent I noticed several signs indicating how the owners had kindly provided seats, picnic areas viewing areas, car parks and so on. I pressed on to what is an obviously public road, only to be overtaken by a woman who had obviously come from the farmhouse further back and obviously the originator of the signs. I was persistently asked for an ‘entrance fee’ to, ‘The Park’ of which I had inadvertently crossed and used the facilities of – namely the track leading off the mountain.

Needless to say I did not pay. Nor did I say what I wanted to say, such as the fact that countless tax payers in Ireland and other EU countries have been paying farmers in this country for years only to discover that they – the farmers – are now holding walkers to ransom and that most of these farmers are now far more wealthy than those who paid for them in the first place.

DP W Cork



The Irish Examiner reported recently that a €100,000 scheme to repair the steep and dangerous Devil’s Ladder, on the most popular route to Carrantuohil, has been put on hold. The reason given was that ‘agreement has yet to be reached with all local landowners’. This is just one more example of the consequences of not having a legal right of way here, or indeed practically anywhere else in Ireland.


Subject: Rosscarberry Walks 

I noticed in your newsletter, that a contributor had written ‘Recently, Rathbarry Castle has been renovated (we think by a private individual) and in the process, a walking path has been blocked off. We believe this to be a right of way as it is marked in an Ordinance Survey map. The walk is also described in Kevin Corcoran’s book of walks in West Cork.’ I took the family on that walk myself a few weeks ago, and we had the same problem. Furthermore, the ruins of Rathbarry castle appeared to have a peach-coloured house built adjoining it, The described deciduous woodlands around the walk have been razed almost in their entirety, and now consist of stumps and timber piles. So far, the only use that appears to have been made of these is a sort of paddock that has been built near the house. We had to climb a wall to continue the walk, avoiding barbed wire fences that had been erected, and on reaching the lane described in the book, we found it closed off by a padlocked gate that fortunately the children could squeeze through. We were warned off by a couple of men who appeared to be working on the inside of the bounds and told to go back where we’d come from. We managed to get out of the enclosed area by struggling through a wooded copse at the side that had not been razed, probably because there was a marshy stream running through it.

SC Co.Cork Ireland.


Subject: Our Experience 

We are 4 Belgian hikers. We’ve walked the Dingle Way in July. It was a very fine experience in magnificent scenery. At least… between Anascoul and Dingle there was a zone of 4 miles without signposts on the Dingle Way. That was not a great problem because we had a good detailed map and a compass. At a large farm, there was a farmer who shouted at us, we think in Irish because we don’t understand a word of it, but his style was aggressive, with 2 great heavily barking dogs at his side. We walked for one mile at top speed, and during that mile, we saw in a corner at the entrance of his farm a heap of a dozen signposts laying down in high grass. During the next hour, we’ve discussed the possible reasons for the angriness of these farmers. When all hikers walked with respect for environment, and for work and private ownership, there wasn’t a problem. There is a lot of work to do, also at the mentality of all hikers. Keep up the good work, KIO!!

Wim Erkelbout Belgium


Fencing into the low water mark at Uggool Beach Co Mayo