Who are we

Keep Ireland Open

Working for the right to access the countryside

About Us

Who we are

KEEP IRELAND OPEN is the national body working for the right to access the countryside, that is our mountains, seashores, lakes and rivers. In Ireland you have no legal right to step onto private land, including commonages, no matter how remote. You may be summarily ejected by landowners for no reason. We are looking for a change in the law from the present unsatisfactory situation where landowners have the law completely and unfairly on their side so as to bring us into line with most other EU countries and the UK.

What we do

Keep Ireland Open is the only national voluntary organisation campaigning for the right of recreational users to responsible access to the Irish countryside, whether mountains, seashore, lakes, rivers, historic monuments or other natural amenities.

We are campaigning for clearly-marked legal rights of way, mainly in the lowlands. and the legal right to roam freely in more remote and upland areas. We also campaign against barbed-wire fencing, especially prevalent in the West, which is both unsightly and denies access.

Our primary goal is legislation to give recreational users the right to access our countryside.

Our role is to lobby Government, politicians, tourism interests and other bodies to protect and enhance access to the countryside.

We have written articles and had letters published in the national and local press and argued our case repeatedly on TV and radio.

We have recorded and publicised areas where access is barred, researched the much more favourable status of access in other European countries.

We have taken a case to the EU complaining against Ireland’s excessive use of barbed-wire fencing (this case is ongoing but so far successful).

We also try to resolve access disputes as they arise, (though with limited numbers of active members we can deal with only some of the simpler cases). Our approach is to resolve these disputes in the early stages and so avoid a hardening of attitudes and entrenched positions. However, we have not the resources to tackle all cases that arise. This should properly be the role of local authorities or tourism interests.

We monitor all local authority development plans and make submissions with regard to rights of way – a huge task. We also publish a quarterly newsletter and maintain this website.

Aims of KIO

The Aims of Keep Ireland Open are:
  • To achieve a network of well marked and maintained public rights-of way to allow short walks to reach open ground and provide access to our rivers, lakes and seashores. • To gain freedom to roam over rough grazing land – that is about 7% of our total land area.
  • To minimize barbed-wire fencing in mountain areas of rough grazing, as it is visually intrusive and severely hinders walkers. Unfortunately there is no legal obligation to provide stiles.
  • To protect our archaeological and natural heritage.
  • To promote the recreational use of walking and cycling routes.
Croagh Patrick

Keep Ireland Open - a Brief history

KIO was initially formed 1994 by a group which included farmers in the West of Ireland – among this early group was our present President Jackie Rumley – in response to the fencing off and sub-division of 2,400 acres of commonage. A High Court Case and an Oral Hearing of An Bord Pleanála in Castlebar resulted in successfully preventing the fencing off of this commonage.

As a result of this the group began to meet with hill walkers and realised there was no group speaking out for walkers’ rights.
KIO has since dedicated itself to the preservation and creation of rights of access to the countryside. This includes rights of access to our mountains, lakes, rivers and coastal areas.

Presently, KIO is primarily an umbrella organisation that brings together the various recreational bodies that share the same aims. In addition we have many individual members and the validity of our mandate has been gradually recognised by the authorities and we are increasingly being consulted directly by government and local authorities on access and related matters.

KIO is an independent, voluntary, non-party political, non-denominational organisation.

As you will see in the following pages, recreational users have minimal rights to access the countryside. It is only by determined and sustained lobbying and campaigning that this situation can be reversed. We hope you will look at these pages and then consider contributing. Don’t leave it to someone else!

Keep Ireland Open is not just for dedicated hill walkers. It is for all who want to access our countryside, be they walkers, ornithologists, archaeologists, historians, canoeists, anglers – just as has been achieved in other countries decades ago.
We need members to show that there are people who care about access. It is essential to show that we have a strong body of support when we talk to politicians. We need help in our work.