It was heartening to meet so many friends & supporters at the Wicklow Head Lighthouses protest rally and walk on Saturday.
Although it was a wild and windy day there was a great turnout from the town as you can see in the photos attached. This was as expected as there was considerable anger in the town that a local landowner had locked the gate on the road to the famous lighthouses at Wicklow Head.
People have taken that walk for centuries and were even invited onto the access path by Irish Lights who control the lighthouse and who have a private right of way along the path which they maintain.
Walkers just assumed it was a public right of way too but this has never been established in a court of law and the council appear reluctant to try using the law to enforce our tradition rights here. This has been a problem now for a decade or more as the farmer would regularly lock the gate and stand guard to turn away walkers. It has now come to a climax with the gate almost permanently locked. Unfortunately, despite our pleas, Irish Lights are not willing to get involved with the public in this dispute and although Wicklow County Council claim to be in negotiations they refuse to give us any information.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about rights of way and current laws are a mess, frequently failing to defend traditional paths. In Ireland there are very few paths where we have a RIGHT to walk, unlike in the UK where there are marked trails just about everywhere. Many people don’t realise that along the coast the Murrough in Wicklow isn’t a legal right of way, neither are pilgrim routes like St. Kevin’s Way, marketed as the Irish Camino or Croagh Patrick. There are more and more gates and fences being built up in the countryside across Wicklow and Ireland creating gated communities and blocking traditional access to the countryside and seashore. The government and many walking organisations rely on establishing a few PERMISSIVE rights of way which offer a 7 year lease from the landowner with various perks including financial, but Keep Ireland Open are not satisfied with this and campaign for a change in the law to be similar to that in the UK.
If you care about this issue you could help by contacting both your councillors and TDs asking that they promise to change the law if they want your vote next year.
You could also help Keep Ireland Open to lobby the politicians by becoming a member. You can join on our website keepirelandopen.org. (Individual €20 unwaged €12)