Access to the countryside is a privilege which needs protection

My postman has brought me some letters from people concerned about rights of way they have used for years but are now under new ownership.

Access to the countryside is a privilege which needs protection

Rights of way have been terminated and padlocked gates and trespassers will be prosecuted signs erected.

Are we back to the bad old days of Cromwellian rule? I would hope not.

Rights of way have been established traditionally and others have been established legally. Notional or traditional rights of way exist which have not been established by law. Ordinance survey maps, old Land Commission maps and other old maps show various walking routes, paths and Mass paths, but there is not a legally defined document which states they exist. However, they can bee seen on a map. In the past people used those rights of way.

Regarding right of way established traditionally, albeit not legally, that crosses over a farmer’s property and is used by many people for various reasons we must ensure that we do not legalise a responsibility or a liability on such a property owner in respect of injury suffered on that property. Absolute immunity from liability must be given to the landowner.

Legislators should also examine the position with regard to fishing activities. We have beautiful rivers which have been fished traditionally. Many people from small towns fish in small rivers and they enter lands and children accompany them and who, when they become adults, maintain that tradition.

People who own property along the banks of such rivers rarely have encountered problems with such people who use a natural amenity for their private enjoyment. We must ensure tradition and individual rights are not transferred by way of impediment to farmers and property owners.

I respect the right of people to pursue those activities. Nobody should deny their right to do so. No act of Dáil Eireann should impede the rights of those who are good enough to voluntarily allow traditional leisure pursuits, whether hunting, fishing, shooting, walking, running or cycling on their property. Responsibility or liability for injury suffered on their property should not lie with the owner. Respect and responsibility for rights of way will help keep Cromwell at bay.

I hope my letter will help all concerned on both sides of the fence, a debate well documented over my 47 years on the former Midleton Town Council and Cork County Council.

Cllr Noel Collins

St Jude’s

Midleton

Co Cork

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