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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 1 Dec 2004

Vol. 594 No. 1

Planning and Development (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 2004: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am sharing my time with a number of other speakers and with the permission of the House will inform it of their names in due course.

I welcome the opportunity to debate this interesting issue. Public rights of way have been covered in different ways by the Oireachtas over recent years. The issue has also been covered by local authorities, especially in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. The Green Party made a submission to the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution that a constitutional change would be necessary to elevate and protect public rights of way. I presume it did not do that lightly but for a reason, which was that it felt no proper legislative change could occur without such protection. It is therefore surprising that it now introduces this legislation without constitutional protection. I do not doubt the bona fides of the party's interest nor am I trying to patronise the party. I have met the former Deputy, Roger Garland, on the issue. He was of considerable assistance to members of the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown local authority during the course of the preparation of its development plan. However, I feel there is an inconsistency in the manner in which the Green Party is approaching this issue.

The legislation is unnecessary. I also consider it extreme as it puts undue pressure on local authorities.

Section 10 of the current legislation lists mandatory objectives that a county council must include in its development plan. In the First Schedule there is a long list of discretionary objectives that may be listed in county development plans. The Bill simply takes one of those discretionary objectives out of the First Schedule and puts it into the list of mandatory objectives. It is taken almost word for word from that First Schedule. We must question if this change is necessary.

Section 14 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 allows for a specific right of way to be carried over from one plan to the next without going through the normal procedures in the section. Section 206 of the Act deals with the creation of a public right of way by agreement. A perfectly adequate legislative framework is already in place for local authorities.

The example of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in this regard will back up what I have said. A total of 28 new public rights of way were created in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county development plan which is in force from 2004 to 2010. Of the 28 public rights of way created by the county council, 14 are now before the Circuit Court under section 14. There is obviously a problem if half of these cases have gone to court under section 14. Some people would say the jug is half-full while others would say it is half-empty. I consider it excellent that 14 public rights of way have been created in the county development plan but it is worrying that another 14 rights of way are being contested in the courts.

The county development plan was agreed about six months ago and no progress has been made in the courts on any of the 14 contested cases. That is a real problem. The elevation of a discretionary function to mandatory status will create even more pressure. The responsibility will be on local authorities to establish the status of every single right of way to be included in the development plan. There are no resources to do this and local authorities do not have the capacity to include it in their development plans. It is unnecessary to include this as a mandatory function. Of the 14 cases under dispute I am aware that a number of them are legitimate but some of them are unfounded. The system currently in place is perfectly acceptable.

The constitutional review group recommended the establishment of a countryside recreation council similar to the one in Northern Ireland. The use of the Northern Ireland model would make it easy for the alignment of joint tourism projects as well as the avoidance of heavy initial mapping costs. There was no recommendation for new legislation or a change in the status of discretionary powers under the Planning and Development Act. However, it did acknowledge that planning authorities had an important role to play in the use of their statutory powers.

There are more than adequate functions in the Planning and Development Act and I hope the current example of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown will be instructive for the future. I oppose the Bill.

Not everybody lives in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown.

I wish to share time with Deputies Dennehy, O'Donovan and O'Connor.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Private Members' Bill, which is correctly opposed by the Government. The Minister has outlined the reasons for this. The Planning and Development Act 2000 was one of the major legislative achievements of recent years. That legislation goes a long way towards covering what is addressed in the Bill before the House.

In recent years, planning has become the focus of much attention and criticism. Much of the publicity has, unfortunately, not been of a positive nature. Planning is the one area where local authorities appear to have been caught unprepared for the substantial growth in the economy in the past ten to 15 years. Many local authorities had an insufficient number of professional planners to deal with the large volume of applications which has been a feature of recent years. Some of the excellent planners who came up through the local authority planning system have gone into private practice which is again leaving local authorities understaffed in this area. According as more applications come to them, local authorities have resorted to seeking further information from planning applicants in order to buy more time to deal with their heavy workloads.

I take the opportunity to congratulate the Minister, Deputy Roche, on his new portfolio. This is one area where he could look at ensuring resources are made available to local authorities for the employment of new planners. This aspect of local authorities' work generates a great deal of income due to the development levies imposed in conjunction with planning permissions.

Public access to the countryside is better dealt with through co-operation and consultation with landowners than by means of the proposed legislation. It can be difficult to establish the existence of a public right of way. The Bill proposes a right of appeal to the Circuit Court to any person who has been served notice of a planning authority's recommendation to include in a development plan a public right of way across his or her land. If the legislation were to be passed, the courts, which are already under severe pressure, could be even more clogged up by such appeals going to the Circuit Court.

Property owners have a right to protect their land and property. I am strongly of the view that this protection should be afforded to them in any legislation we pass in this House. Security and the fear of litigation are two of the main concerns of property owners who allow the public to use their lands for walking. Access to the seashore, lakeshores and riverbanks should be available to the public, but the way to protect these rights of way is by negotiating with landowners.

I am opposed to the Bill. I encourage the Minister to ensure, where possible, that access to seashores, lakeshores and riverbanks is negotiated through local authorities.

Like previous speakers, I welcome the opportunity to speak to this Bill and discuss the matter in the House. As we discovered last night, there are many differing views on this issue, many of which depend on whether one represents a rural or an urban area. Deputy Boyle and I have a split in our constituency, with 37% of constituents designated as rural dwellers, which gives us a view from both sides. Nearly all of us have experienced both the urban and rural situations regarding rights of way, and there are diametrically opposed views on the issue, especially in respect of this Bill. It is worth bearing in mind the comment made last night by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, that the Government wants to promote and maximise access to the countryside but with the co-operation and assistance of those involved, which is a crucial element. One can argue for and against different locations, which issue we can discuss further. This is in some ways a poor Bill and it is untimely.

One of the reasons it is poor is that it is an attempt to use a one-size-fits-all approach, which will not work. I also have suspicions about the timing of the Bill after years of confrontation and public demonstrations, some of them incited by individuals and groups which saw difficulties in certain areas. The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, only established Comhairle na Tuaithe in February and it has been working in a co-operative fashion. Why has the Bill been introduced at this point and why does it propose a mandatory requirement where, up to now, discretion has been the order of the day? It is important that those of us who have participated in local government point out that the discretion is in the hands of the public representatives who are the people in a given location who can judge what is best for the people they represent and their area. I not agree with the removal of this discretion to make this provision mandatory.

Most Deputies referred to their experiences. My experience is primarily as a fisherman of rivers and freshwater lakes, mainly in Kerry and west Cork. I have wide experience of the use of public rights of way, especially on river banks, and have had little difficulty. I could number perhaps two or three occasions over 30 years on which I had difficulty. Therefore, I can base my arguments on that point. Why try to rock the boat with this change at this time?

It was pointed out that there are two aspects to this argument, namely, the urban and the rural aspects, which have different needs and wishes. Deputy Boyle referred to the situation in Cork city where laneways on North Main Street were closed off. However, he did not mention that Cork City Council, of which we are both members, has had to put aside €500,000 this year alone to rail off, wall off, and block off other alleyways in the suburbs. All of these alleyways came out of the Essex guide to town planning of the 1960s, the Bible of planners at the time, but the alleyways have turned out to be an unmitigated disaster. One is forced into drawing the line between which are acceptable and which are not. This comes back to the local public representatives who make the choices. People are suicidal in these situations. Deputy Finian McGrath also referred to lanes in cities which feature scenes reminiscent of warfare given the outdoor drinking which takes place in them. It is great to have a romantic ideal of the old historic laneways and state that we should preserve them, but we are living in a modern world.

Difficulties have cropped up in the rural context, the solution to which is co-operation. There are differing views about what should happen. For example, the Paps Mountains behind Rathmore in County Kerry contain a lake. There are approximately 12 different means of accessing the lake but they all start at the one point, namely, through a laneway into a small farm yard and on from there. Depending on the weather and various other factors, I can take any of these routes and I have never been stopped by the farmer or anyone else in 30 years. The journey takes approximately 45 minutes through bogland and, therefore, a range of people would not undertake it.

If we accepted the diktat in this Bill, rights of way would be identified but that would be the end of story and one would be stuck with that. At Lady's View, one can see beautiful scenery but there are also hundreds of tourists. I want to be able to access the river valley far below but I do not want hundreds of tourists coming on to the same patch. That is the case throughout the country. Hill walkers say that their attraction to a given place is the loneliness and that not many people travel there. Are we to prescribe a right of way for the few? We dealt with the same argument in the context of the Burren interpretative centre. The argument against developing that centre was that it would draw too many people into using or misusing the area. One can apply the same argument to almost any situation. It is a negative approach to prescribe access and state that a right of way exists regardless of any other factor.

The ancillary issues of safety, insurance and so on must be dealt with and taken into consideration, which is happening through the Minister's approach. I am happy that what will be proposed will be acceptable to all. The Green Party has an interest in all of this although I was fascinated to hear Deputy Gogarty refer to the Green Party as a friend of the farmer. I do not know whether it is in the interests of farmers that the Bill is proposed, but some of the policies I have seen ascribed to the Green Party suggest it is not a friend of the farmer.

Deputy Cowley made the point that people are frightened in certain situations. I have been in isolated areas on the sides of mountains around places like Glencar and residents, not farmers, are afraid. Deputy Morgan managed to be both on the side of the farmers and the visitors in his comments. However, some people are terrified and they must have a say as to whether there is a right of way past the front of their cottage or through their farm, whether it is large or small. They must be included. I will not agree to any Bill which dictates to such people that whether they like it or not, there will be a right of way which will be included in a register and which anyone from any part of the world can use. Tourists will receive information about the rights of way in the local tourist guide. That is not the approach we want. Rather, we want a co-operative approach. Deputy Cowley is correct that people have been driven out of areas because of difficulties with access.

All of us who use rights of way would be horrified at some of the damage which can be done by people walking or fishing or those who are ignorant of the countryside. Substantial damage has been done on occasion by gates being left open and so on. The extreme example of quad bikes was raised last night but damage can equally be caused by people walking and manoeuvring. I have seen fences, in place to corral sheep, which were broken by people who wished to get to the bank of a river. None of us subscribes to that.

The main objective we seek in this area is co-operation. Comhairle na Tuaithe is the forum through which we should work. Given that it has secured a discussion on this issue, I appeal to the Green Party to withdraw the Bill with the right to resubmit it when Comhairle na Tuaithe reports and when something is planned in this area. None of us disagrees with the concept of rights of way but a one size fits all approach will not work. There are dozens of cases, such as Lady's View, the mountains in Kerry and the Burren, where it would not be suitable to have the same rule apply to all. We need to be a little more careful in our approach.

Various points were made by Members during the debate last night and many of them were diametrically opposed. I do not wish to see clashes in here or to have Members claiming to represent farmers, big or small, and expressing the view that people should not be allowed to walk on the land. The usual example of the Old Head of Kinsale was trotted out as the argument for passing this Bill. I do not subscribe to that argument. There is a difficulty in that area and it has gone through the courts.

A rational discussion is needed on this issue. I am glad we are having such a discussion and I hope it will continue. However, I appeal to the leader and deputy leader of the Green Party, who are present, to withdraw the Bill at the end of this debate, consider the points made by Members and try to work with Comhairle na Tuaithe. It is most important that this forum is used. We do not wish to have similar scenes to those in the House of Commons, where one group stormed it one week for the right to go hunting and the opposing group stormed it the following week for the right to stop all hunting. I hope we are more practical and sensible and that we will resolve this situation.

I cannot, as I usually do, commend the Bill to the House because I have concerns about it.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this legislation. I have been a regular contributor to the debates on Private Members' business since I was first elected to the House. I have always welcomed the subjects put forward for debate by the Opposition parties because they provide Members with the opportunity to discuss important issues. In that regard, I welcome the attendance of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Like my colleagues, I sincerely wish Deputy Roche every success in his office.

Occasionally I have suggested during debates of Private Members' business that some of my colleagues on the Opposition benches are just seeking soundbites for the media and highlighting issues without offering solutions. In fairness, however, we should thank the Green Party for its initiative. I am glad Deputies Sargent and Gormley have taken the time to listen to my contribution.

It is always a pleasure.

I wish them well. They have done a service by putting this matter on the agenda, although what happens afterwards is another matter.

I am concerned about the content of the Bill, particularly the simplistic suggestion that we can in legislation protect rights of way by spinning words such as "access to our seashore, mountains, lakes and other areas of natural beauty and recreational utility". I wish we lived in such a utopia. Over the years, however, I have encountered numerous cases in places such as Firhouse, Greenhills, Templeogue and Tallaght where rights of way have become centres of anti-social behaviour and a nightmare for local residents. What are my colleagues in the Green Party trying to achieve? Where does the Bill deal with this issue? Many constituents continue to contact me about this problem and I am not prepared simply to tell them that they must put up with it because legislation allows it to happen. That is an important point.

I agree with, and have received many representations from constituents on, the need for a right of way code which would benefit walking groups and rural tourism development. In that regard, I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, on his initiative in founding Comhairle na Tuaithe, the countryside recreation council, in January this year. This excellent group is working as a partnership based on a genuine and inclusive consultation process to assist in the management of countryside recreation in Ireland. Its objective is to develop and update national countryside and outdoor recreation strategic approaches and covers such matters as ensuring that all means necessary are used to resolve conflicts that arise about access, raise awareness of the benefits and the responsibilities of recreational use of the countryside and carry out research and planning on related issues. This work should be supported by all sides of the House.

The involvement of representatives of agriculture, forestry, heritage, conservation, tourism and health interests and many recreational activity user groups as well as farmers and landowners is to be supported in preparing a country code. That is an achievement in itself and reflects the complexity of the matter, to which the quick fixes proposed in the Bill are no help. As an open and consultative process, this group's work provides a platform where the opportunity to influence and debate is exercised in a proactive and productive way. Comhairle na Tuaithe provides a forum where the interests of all are balanced with the needs of many. Its work is worthwhile and the outcome of its activities should not be hindered by a pre-emptive move by a party to dictate the position through legislation without allowing the consultative process to be completed.

On this and many other occasions the views of some colleagues appear to be continually expressed in the form of demanding legislation as opposed to accepting the opportunity for open debate and influencing opinion, which serves our democracy better. I support the recent comment of the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív, that after 2002 we must never again have an incident where people using advertised and agreed walkways are accosted. The damage caused by such incidents is not good for our international tourism reputation.

I am aware of a case where German visitors, accustomed to order and regulation, found themselves in such a position. After an incident, they cut short their visit to the west by four days and returned to Tallaght. While the rest of their visit was great, as one would expect, the first item of conversation on their return to Bonn was the confrontation with a landowner. This type of incident damages rural areas, many of which use tourism as a local development activity.

It is important to understand the merits of the subject before the House. I will not go overboard in criticising the Green Party but I will support the Minister, Deputy Roche, at 1.30 this afternoon. I commend the Government's position on the Bill.

I congratulate the Green Party on introducing this Bill. The Labour Party will support it at 1.30 p.m. Like much legislation that comes before the House, the Bill requires amendment. Many authors of legislation are willing to facilitate such amendment and, no doubt, the Green Party will be willing to do the same.

I wish to declare my interest at the outset. I am a member of Keep Ireland Open. I am a weekly hill walker now that I have more time to indulge in the activity. I have experienced at first hand the ranting, foaming, raging anger of aggressive and intimidating farmers who have screamed and roared at people, including women and young children. It is not a pleasant sight. In this case the people were not trying to go on to clearly designated private land but to walk up a tarred road that was a continuation of what appeared to be a public road. I refer to an area in Bunowen-Ballyconneely in Connemara. I met tourists who were trembling because they had been confronted and shouted at by farmers on the side of Glen Inagh and who inquired if it would be possible for them to walk up the Maam Turks down which I had just descended. The figures speak for themselves. They have decreased from 322,000 to 241,000 people. We do not know how many of these individuals are walkers because we do not posses the raw data. It might be interesting, in the context of rural tourism, for the CSO and the bodies responsible for policy to provide a breakdown of these figures. Perhaps some qualitative research could be undertaken in order that we could deduce whether there is a problem.

As a citizen of this Republic, I have a problem because access to the countryside is a presumed convention, not a right. While the legislation may not be complete or satisfactory, there is no doubt that we need to consider the legal basis upon which we can construct an integrated policy. The legal position, referred to with some authority by Deputy Deenihan, on the right to roam and rights of way is — for a host of legal and historical reasons with which Members will be familiar — fundamentally different from that in Great Britain. The Labour Party studied this matter and published its view in its policy manifesto for the most recent general election. The manifesto states:

Labour recognises that hill walking and countryside rambling have now become pastimes that thousands of our citizens and many tourists enjoy. We firmly support the right to roam. We will, in consultation with local community groups and landowners, explore ways how this can be recognised and enhanced while protecting the property and livelihood of the farming community. The social partners, including farming organisations, have a positive role to play in this development.

The logic of the establishment of Comhairle na Tuaithe follows this path.

The right to roam, as distinct from rights of way, is what hill walkers want. They do not necessarily want to be corralled down a series of lanes. Most hill and recreational walkers will state that, given a choice, the last place they want to be is on a waymarked way on a tertiary or minor road because they must walk in fear of their lives. In summer, when the hedgerows have not been trimmed back, visibility for both drivers and walkers is limited. It is dangerous to walk or drive down such roads during the summer months. By definition, many of the waymarked ways, including large sections of the Wicklow Way, run on tarred road surfaces which are open to multiple vehicle use and which, consequently, are not as safe as one would like.

Hill walkers, including me, many others and members of Keep Ireland Open, want the right to roam across open countryside above a certain level. Historically, the land to which I refer has been the commonage. It amounts to 500,000 acres and is owned by 12,000 farmers in a complex and old form of legal ownership which makes legislation extremely difficult to construct. What we are seeking — as are Keep Ireland Open and others interested in this matter — is the right to roam, subject to codes, conditions, etc., above a certain level. The figure frequently touted in respect of the latter is 150 metres or 500 feet above sea level and above all arable farming activity. However, getting from a public roadway to that level of commonage causes problems in many instances. It is in this context that we need to consider the introduction of legislation following consultation. I am convinced that some form of legislation will be required and that this will probably entail amending the Occupiers Liability Act 1995 which my former colleague, Mervyn Taylor, introduced.

Farming communities have legitimate concerns, particularly when one reads the judgment handed down in the Donegal case. I wish to refer to part of that judgment in the interests of balance. If this happened to me, I would be incensed. In the case in question a young woman who had sustained elbow and leg injuries after falling down a cliff at a County Donegal beauty spot was awarded damages of more than €84,000. Under the Occupiers Liability Act 1995, it was found that she had been 25% negligent and that the owner of the land had been 75% negligent. The woman involved left a local restaurant and walked to a nearby and well known beauty spot where she slipped and hurt herself. Whatever about the validity of her claim — the judgment in the case is under appeal — it has understandably helped to transform the debate.

We must all openly recognise — I include myself — that landowners faced with that kind of judgment have legitimate concerns. We can do two things: first, we can simply do nothing and allow the status quo to remain in place in the hope consultations involving Comhairle na Tuaithe will resolve matters; or, second, we can recognise that there is a need to change the law. It is my view that there is a need to change the law. Pending the outcome of the Supreme Court judgment, however, the precise form of that change remains unclear. I ask the Minister, or some other speaker on the Government side, to respond to this matter at some stage. From the way the taking of this legislation has been dealt with by the two Ministers involved, Deputies Roche and Ó Cuív, it is clear that there is a shared political responsibility between their Departments. This is a serious issue.

Deputy Dennehy asked why this matter had come to the fore now rather than five, ten or 15 years ago. The answer is that it has become an issue, on two fronts, because of money. First, farming incomes are static, if not declining. Over 70% of farming income comes from taxpayers. By and large, farming incomes have diminished relative to those earned by the remainder on this island and they are increasingly, regardless of how many in urban areas would like to assert the opposite, falling behind. The second reason is — this is, in part, one of the given reasons for the reaction in Sligo — that farmers have discovered in local book shops guides to walks in their areas. These guides which recommend walking routes and trails over lands owned by such farmers and offer advice on suggested points at which people may enter and exit those lands, are being sold commercially and involve no consultation with the farmers to whom I refer. The profits from the sale of these books go to the authors, not the farmers. It is understandable the latter are of the opinion they should obtain part of the profits these authors are getting from organising these walks.

The size of the walks to which I refer is different. The Minister will be familiar with the position at Scar, County Wicklow. Four weeks ago we encountered a group of 35 people on one particular walk there. Some of the individuals involved also had mountain bikes. If one is walking in an area where the land is being used for grazing and other purposes, damage can be done. Standards must be set. Fortunately, Scar happens to be part of the public property. One of the reasons publicly owned uplands in County Wicklow are heavily used is they are one of the few areas of uplands to which one can go without feeling uncertainty as regards the reaction of landowners. I know of a particular guided tour walker in the west who has effectively had to move out of the business because of this ambiguity. His customers were being berated by farmers and were then asking him if he had them there on false pretences because they had paid €15 or whatever per head and appeared to be in breach of the law.

There is an absolute need for legislation and legislative clarity. The Green Party's Bill provides the basis on which to proceed in that regard. There is a need to address the question of obtaining rights of way, in terms of access, from the public domain — public roads and network systems — across privately owned lands and on to uplands commonage where people have a right to roam. If we are going to do this, I suggest that it should be done in an integrated way. We must clarify legally the right to roam on uplands. We must also agree access and rights of way in moving from the public space of a road through a series of fields in order to reach the uplands. The limit of liability should be designated very clearly to the point of zero if that can be done properly. It is a matter for lawyers and others to get the balance right. We must clarify to the minimal point possible the exposure of property owners in respect of allowing people to walk across their land. Those tracks must be clearly designated and there must be provision of stiles and other physical artefacts to enable people to cross boundaries without damaging them. I have seen damaged walls where inconsiderate walkers have taken down stones to get over a wall or have climbed over a stone wall and have not had the decency to take the extra ten or 15 minutes to put the stones back in again. Consequently sheep are lost or some damage is done to livestock in the area.

This is a two-way process and it must be a partnership. There are responsibilities as well as rights for people like me who want to enjoy ourselves on other people's land, which is what we are asking for the right to do, in effect. Where a local authority has, following consultation, recognised that in the designated area of that authority there may be a need for four or five kilometres of defined tracks and defined points of access to rights of way, the owners of that land or people close to them could be given some kind of payment for the maintenance of the upkeep of those stiles. Somebody must be responsible to ensure that the stiles and the crossings are kept in good condition. The local authority would have a role to play in this regard. I suggest to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, that a local authority, particularly in those areas where this is a significant activity, would be responsible for maintaining a watch on rights of way and access and ensuring that any potential problems, such as a stile in a clearly dangerous condition, are rectified so that they do not cause a person serious injury. These matters must be considered.

The potential for integrated tourism is enormous. I received a letter which describes what was done in County Leitrim but the writer says it would not be possible to do the same thing now:

We returned to Manorhamilton and set up a Glens Hillwalking Committee. We raised £5,000 approx to pay for our marketing tools, namely Brochures (in German, French and English), Hillwalking Videos, and Guidebooks. Thirty two different suitable routes were identified, which involved finding out who the owners were — over 150 landowners were approached and consents obtained; the start of each walk was signposted and given a number; each walk was tested before final publication and public liability was taken out. We set up and promoted our Hillwalking Festivals held here each Easter and October. Finally, having done all this we got all the accommodation provided in the area to join together and form the North Leitrim Accommodation Co-Op . . . I firmly believe that if some person or group were to set about the work detailed in the above paragraph today, they would find it impossible to make any progress due to the anti-hillwalking feelings now prevalent and the problems with insurance.

Integrated rural development groups may be able to undertake these kind of activities. Under the derelict sites legislation of the late 1980s, in the case of a derelict building of which the ownership is unclear, there is a provision for a local authority to put a confiscation order on the building following due process. That property can be acquired by the local authority and renovated for use as a hostel. Alternatively, groups of farmers in particular areas and with financial assistance could provide overnight accommodation for campers and charge them for that service and for food, as referred to by the Minister for Community, Gaeltacht and Rural Affairs in his contribution.

This is more than just about access and rights of way although of necessity those are the narrow confines of the Bill. It is about how recreation in rural Ireland is dealt with. An eminent Irish landscape architect, Mr. Conor Skehan, said at a recent conference that if one were to look at the future of commercial farming on this island when the reforms in agriculture have concluded in 15 to 20 years' time or probably even sooner, one could draw a line from Dublin south-west to Limerick and everything north of that line would be outside the territory of viable commercial agriculture. In those circumstances the configuration and appearance of the landscape will change dramatically by virtue of the change of its use. If we wish to use land for recreational purposes and sustain rural communities, not all of whom are directly involved in agriculture, we need to have an integrated and proactive plan which is not in place. One of the reasons for that is because of the legal uncertainty about compensation, insurance liability, rights of access and the right to roam.

This is fundamentally a legislative problem which the Oireachtas must address. The Green Party Bill goes part of that way and it is welcome. I ask the Government to accept the Bill, refer it to a relevant committee of the House and bring forward constructive measures to add to and improve it.

I wish to share time with Deputies Connolly and Ferris. Ba mhaith liom tacaíocht a thabhairt don Bhille tábhachtach seo agus comhghairdeas a ghabháil don Chomhaontas Ghlas as é a chur os comhair an Tí.

I welcome the opportunity to support the Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2004, or the rights of way Bill as it is being referred to. As I see it, its immediate purpose is to include in county development plans and, I presume, city development plans, a list of all known existing public rights of way. For that reason alone, I cannot see what the objection is to the objective of this Bill. Like Deputy Quinn, I hope the Government accepts it.

I compliment the Green Party and Deputy Gogarty on bringing forward this initiative. The former Deputy Roger Garland of the Green Party has displayed a great interest in this issue and worked hard on this proposal when he was in the House. The issue as to whether a list of existing public rights of way should be a mandatory requirement for inclusion in county and city development plans has been debated at some length in this House, most notably on Committee Stage of the Planning and Development Act. My recollection is that it received widespread support, other than from the then Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Noel Dempsey.

The issue of public rights of way and their defence by local people against the attempts of private individuals to take them over has been one which I have watched with interest and a minor peripheral involvement since I became politically active as far back as the late 1960s. At that time the campaign to protect public rights of way at Brittas Bay received widespread publicity and public support. It was a community-based campaign led by local councillors, especially the then Sinn Féin councillor, the late Séamus Costello, who represented Bray Urban District Council and Wicklow County Council. More recently, also in Wicklow, we saw the efforts of local hill walkers led by Niall Lenoach to defend the rights of people to walk traditional public rights of way.

This is a relevant, long overdue Bill about an issue many local authorities have preferred to sweep under the carpet and ignore in the hope that it might go away. Thanks to local leadership, such as that to which I have referred, the issue has not gone away and progress has been made by some local councils in recent times. I understand, for example, that Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, South Dublin, Wicklow, Clare and south Tipperary county councils have made progress on the issue and that when the matter was raised at these councils, it met with virtually no opposition from any of the elected councillors.

The main difficulty for those who wish to use public rights of way is that there is no legal right of access for the public. The fact that there are few designated routes is the main cause of many disputes with local landowners. For far too long, local authorities have neglected this important part of our heritage. A way must be found to preserve public rights of way when it is in the public interest to do so.

I agree with Deputy Quinn that this is not a one-sided issue. I support his view that consultation with local landowners is a valid requirement which should be built into any attempt to address rights of way. I also agree that access to rights of way from public roads must be addressed because, as the Deputy noted, a large number of inconsiderate or irresponsible walkers can cause serious damage. His point that the issue involves responsibilities and rights was well made.

While I am probably regarded as a representative of an urban, inner city area, I have links with the countryside, having spent many weeks in my youth hill walking in the area of Croghan Hill. More recently, I managed without great difficulty to climb Carrantuohill which, if I remember my geography lessons correctly, is the highest mountain in Ireland. Rights of way are also an urban issue. Some of the most protracted disputes in my constituency have related to laneways, short cuts and traditional routes which some people regarded as public rights of way while others, particularly those who live beside them, considered major problems. There are two sides to this issue and the legislation provides a basis on which to address them.

I welcome the opportunity to speak to this Bill. The issue of public rights of way should be addressed in an integrated manner at national, regional and local council level. This will be essential if we are to prevent the list of local angry confrontations, such as recent cases in counties Donegal, Mayo and Sligo, from lengthening further. Ironically, the most intractable problems occur in the west, the part of the country which attracts fewest walkers and an otherwise prime area for developing hill walking and other outdoor recreational activities as tourism attractions.

There are many problems of access. Day trippers and casual walkers can no longer walk on the Old Head of Kinsale, a traditional pastime for many people in Cork and the surrounding area. Hill walkers can no longer visit parts of mountain ranges such as the Ben Bulben area of County Sligo, the Twelve Bens in Connemara and parts of the Dingle and Beara peninsulas in counties Kerry and Cork. Archaeologists can no longer visit important megalithic tombs, for example, at Carbane in County Westmeath. Bird watchers are increasingly cautious about walking through areas in which they want to study birds. Even beaches are not immune from the problem. Ugool beach near Westport has been a public amenity for decades and although supposedly in State hands, access to the beach has been blocked for years by a local landowner. In contrast, the Seven Heads walk, a spectacular route along cliff tops crossing private land on the Timoleague-Courtmacsherry-Bayside route along the railway line has been an outstanding success.

The Bill proposes to introduce a mandatory requirement to list all public rights of way in the drafting of each local authority's development plan. Ireland has a poorly developed network of established rights of way and is one of only two EU countries where access to the countryside is restricted. Accordingly, the proposal to list public rights of way on a county by county basis is timely and appropriate.

Rights of way serve a wide range of functions in rural and urban settings and this must be recognised in any overall assessment. In the process of drawing up a county development plan, it will be necessary to arrive at an appropriate network of rights of way to serve the needs of the whole community. Each county should establish a rights of way forum with the function of addressing and resolving the issues of compensation, maintenance costs and rules of usage.

The Bill does not distinguish between clearly defined public rights of way and informal rights of way across property. The responsibility of local authorities to protect the public's right to access public rights of way in each local authority area, as provided for in the Roads Act 1993, is meaningless. For example, a person accosted by an angry landowner while walking along a hill path he has used for many years may assert the path is a right of way. The landowner, however, could then demand to know the reason the walker believes he has rights to walk through the land, given that no right of way is marked on a map and there is no signpost indicating the path is a right of way. The only basis on which the walker can claim to have a right of way is that he has used the route for years. That is the legal position here, whereas in other western European countries recreational users, walkers, ramblers and bird watchers have legal rights to walk in the countryside. In some countries, people have the right to walk anywhere apart from obvious places such as crop growing areas.

Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, the owner of private land may apply to a local authority to have a public right of way removed from a part of his or her land. In such cases, the local authority may close off or extinguish a part of the land in question from public access and use its power to recover the cost involved from the landowner.

In the case of private property rights of way, consideration should be given to the concept of a right of way licence similar to licences available for salmon fishing. This would require a person wishing to engage in walking activity to purchase a licence covering the area or county in which he or she wishes to walk. The licence would insure walkers against all possible accidents and indemnify the landowner. The walker would receive a specially numbered disk for his or her vehicle and a copy of a code of practice governing behaviour while walking. Participating landowners could, for example, receive an annual payment from the income generated by the licence. The licence details and vehicle sticker would facilitate identification by landowners in the event of complaints being made about the behaviour of walkers on their property. Registration would address the problem that landowners cannot identify such people. Such a licensing system would establish an organised procedure to facilitate formal and informal access to the landscape.

The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, proposes the establishment of a countryside council, under which the Government would enter a pact with landowners which would result in the opening and maintenance of designated waymarked paths. The main question for the council is how to identify suitable paths and landowners and pay them for maintenance, similar to the terms of a rights of way licence.

The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, described the proposed legislation as using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. I hope he is not referring to the farmer. However, he acknowledged that there was a nut to be cracked and extolled the virtues of arriving at a consensus between users and landowners. Nobody will quibble with this. What does he find objectionable in listing rights of way in county development plans, as is the case in the United Kingdom? Nobody is seeking to abolish public rights of way. The legislation merely seeks to formally set in stone all existing public rights of way in the various counties. Section 73(10) of the Roads Act 1993 states, "A person who obstructs, impedes or otherwise interferes with a public right of way or who destroys or damages a public right of way save as is provided for in law shall be guilty of an offence". Section 73(11) states, "It shall be a function of a local authority to protect the right of the public to use public rights of way in its administrative area".

Section 12 of this Bill would provide that even where a public road may be abandoned in so far as the roads authority no longer becomes responsible for its maintenance, the public right of way would continue unless it was specifically extinguished by the appropriate procedures. On the basis of these facts, the Minister's analogy of a sledgehammer hardly applies since the proposed legislation would merely list existing rights of way for each local authority.

Walkers are a most important component of our tourism industry. In 1993 we had over 300,000 walkers, which number had reduced to 220,000 by 2002. The figures to date this year amount to around 170,000, therefore, we have a problem. Walkers are important to the tourism industry. We should not neglect this fact.

Other areas of natural outstanding beauty such as Slieve Beagh in County Monaghan are largely forgotten about. There is a job required to sell the beauty we have in abundance. The proposed legislation would provide for an essential component of a local authority's development plan, particularly regarding the place of rights of way in a council's leisure and recreational facilities.

The issue of consultation must also be addressed. The people must get out and consult farmers whose big worry is that people will walk onto their land, suffer an injury and then make a claim. These issues must be addressed. We will find that landowners actually want to open their lands, particularly when they realise the tourism value to the rest of the country.

I generally welcome the Bill. As Deputies from the Green Party and others have said, the countryside is part of our heritage and every person ought to enjoy access to sites of interest.

The problem is how to balance this interest against the legitimate interests and concerns of those whose land is crossed by walkways. The initiative of the Minister for Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, goes some way to addressing the issue and there appears to be sufficient goodwill and common-sense to ensure that in the vast majority of cases walkers, sightseers and farmers will be able to co-exist.

There are, however, other issues which require that rights of way and walkways are given proper protection under the law. This does not necessarily concern the issue of farmland, but has more to do with the growth of other forms of private property in the countryside that cut across traditional amenity areas and areas of historical interest. I refer particularly to golf courses, hotels and so on, where large chunks of the countryside are removed from public access, often with little or no benefit to the community in which they happen to be situated. Private developers are moving in, buying up property that is beyond the reach of local farmers, closing the land off and then charging people for the right to enjoy expensive private amenities. A good example of such problems is to be found in Cork where the Old Head of Kinsale was closed off due to a golf course development in respect of which there was a court ruling that the public had no right of access, even though generations had enjoyed the amenity. Such cases prove that there is a need to legislate in favour of rights of way.

I understand the concerns of farmers regarding the safety of their land, crops and stock when people are crossing their property. A gate left open can often lead to cattle escaping and endanger the public, or the freeing of dogs can have detrimental effects on a farmer's livelihood, especially when he or she is attempting to survive on marginal income. Therefore, any solution to the issue of rights of way must have due regard for those concerns and show due consideration for the issues of insurance and liability. People who walk on agricultural land may come across contaminated land. If walkers go through different sections, they may spread such contamination.

We must never lose sight of the fact that rural Ireland remains a place in which individuals and communities attempt to make a livelihood for themselves. Traditionally, this has meant that the emphasis has been on farming but in the past 30 years there has been a drastic decline in the number of farming families. An effort has been made in the recent past to replace jobs in farming with alternatives but the historical experience of rural Ireland over the history of the State has been one of population decline, none more so than in the past 30 years. If this is to be halted or even reversed, rural Ireland has to be treated as a viable economic reality. This means that small to medium family farms must be supported and food processing and other connected industries located in rural areas in order to take advantage of local resources and supply much needed employment. While tourism has a role to play, we must not allow ourselves to fall into a situation where scenic and otherwise favoured rural areas are made solely dependent on the tourism industry.

I am glad to have had the opportunity to listen to the interesting points made in this debate. However, the Government believes this Bill, while well intentioned, is misguided as it would lead to more bureaucracy and do little for the real objective of promoting greater access to the countryside.

The Bill proposes to make a change to the Planning and Development Act 2000 by requiring the inclusion of mandatory objectives for the preservation of all rights of way in the development plan and the consequent listing of all rights of way. Several issues became apparent during the debate that reinforce the points made by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs on why the Bill should not be approved by the House.

The partnership and consultation process is more appropriate to solving access disputes. The initiative of the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuiv, in establishing Comhairle na Tuaithe is to be welcomed. The Bill would seriously undermine the dialogue under way between all the interests involved.

I disagree.

It can be difficult to establish whether there is actually a right of way. Many perceived public rights of way have no legal basis but are places where the public may walk with the consent of the landowner which may be withdrawn at any time. Mandatory listing of all these routes would lead to numerous objections and court challenges that could clog up the courts for years. The effect on access to the countryside would most likely be negative as landowners would probably close many of these walkways or access points for fear of them becoming listed public rights of way.

This Bill would lead to further strain on planning authorities' resources. While it may have been intended to apply to the rural situation, it would also possibly apply to a myriad of urban laneways and walkways. Several members identified a vast number of urban walkways as being of particular concern. Under the Roads Act 1993, all roads are classified as public rights of way. Cataloguing and mapping of all such routes would be a mammoth task for local authorities and would divert scarce resources away from priority operational and strategic tasks, such as the zoning of land for housing, the making of planning decisions and the improvement of the service to the public. Including a list of all public rights of way in the development plans would make them too complex.

After several years of legislating, it is now time to allow the planning system bed down and to give it operational breathing space. The discretionary powers of planning authorities to preserve and create public rights of way, together with the consultative approach followed by Comhairle na Tuaithe, is the best way to deal with the issue. We should be mindful that Comhairle na Tuaithe is facilitating dialogue between representatives from the key parties which include the farming organisations, the Irish Sports Council and the Irish Uplands Forum with the aim of establishing basic principles on which all can agree and developing mechanisms for conflict resolution. We all aspire to these aims. The proposed Bill would be prejudicial against the dialogue developed by Comhairle na Tuaithe in a spirit of partnership.

I am sharing time with Deputies Cuffe and Sargent. I am proud the Green Party proposed this legislation, and I thank Opposition Deputies for their support. I am disappointed and exasperated the Government has not found the inclination to support this far-seeing legislation. I should not have been surprised by the speech given by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Roche, yesterday evening. He has a very different approach to his predecessor, the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen. He is less confrontational.

He is more arrogant.

Perhaps, but he is certainly more personable. However, the net effect is the same in that it is still a Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats policy. The Minister used the right language and it was conciliatory.

It is reasoned argument.

Yes, but he then inserted a stiletto between our shoulder blades. He spoke of unforeseen consequences. He must have seen the consequences because he then spoke about a bureaucratic nightmare. The Minister of State spoke about a mammoth task. This is absolute nonsense. He has not given us the evidence for this assertion nor has he shown how it could happen. It is a relatively simple matter, but the political will does not exist to carry it out. That is what this is about. The Minister and the Minister of State spoke of reasoned arguments, a sensible approach, partnership, consultation and discussion. All that is missing from their argument is that we have a group hug.

We are heading in that direction.

The Minister, Deputy O'Keeffe wants to avoid confrontation, controversy and force. Those are fine words, but not in keeping with Fianna Fáil's record on other issues. Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats have a diktat and Stalinist approach when it comes to other issues such as foisting a waste plan on a community and giving them incinerators. Where is the dialogue in these situations? Where is the consultation? It does not happen, because when the Government wants its way it forces it through. Where was the dialogue when dealing with the situation in Carrickmines or Tara? There was no dialogue.

For years, the Green Party sought the independence of An Bord Pleanála and the Environmental Protection Agency——

In terms of a partnership approach, an organisation such as Keep Ireland Open wants to proceed with this legislation, because it knows it is a step in the right direction. The points made by Deputy Quinn regarding occupier's liability are legitimate. Changes in legislation are required to deal with that matter also. The Government could start there, but it will not start anywhere because it does not want to. The political will does not exist.

Two different philosophies are at play here. Thomas Drummond said "Property has its duties as well as its rights." The Government does not believe in this assertion. Fianna Fáil is not a republican party in the true sense of the word, because it does not believe in the res publica or public space. What is Fianna Fáil’s political philosophy at this time? Is it socialism, as the Taoiseach claims? Is it pragmatism, as the Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, claims? Or is it cynicism, as I claim? Cynicism is the political philosophy of Fianna Fáil because it knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Hear, hear.

We are talking about intrinsic value. Years ago my colleague, Mr. RogerGarland, said the best things in life are free.


As far as Fianna Fáil is concerned the best things in life are no longer free. If it had its way, it would charge the public for the right of walking the hills. It does not require a giant leap of imagination to envisage a subcommittee of the National Roads Association charging tolls on the hills at some future date. People might say this notion is far fetched, but I do not believe so. It could happen, given what I have seen over the seven and a half years of this Government.

I am a hill walker, and have walked in particular in the hills of Wales. There are national parks there such as the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast and Snowdonia. We should create and extend national parks in Ireland. We want a better quality of life for all citizens. I ask the Minister of State to contemplate that, and think about what we are saying. If he believes in dialogue, he will listen to what we are saying and introduce his own legislation. If not, Comhairle na Tuaithe will remain a talking shop.

There are lines from a song which say:

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above

Don't fence me in

Let me ride through the wide open country that I love

Don't fence me in.

Were those words written by William Butler Yeats?

Not quite. They are lyrics of a song written over 60 years ago by Robert Fletcher and Cole Porter.

I thought the Deputy might quote Patrick Kavanagh.

I could wax lyrical about Patrick Kavanagh also. The sentiment of not being fenced in is difficult to exercise in Ireland today 60 years after the song was written. Had Cole Porter set out on 19 September of this year from Enniskerry to try to assert his right to roam on the Old Coach Road down into County Wicklow he would possibly have been humming that song when he encountered a large metal barrier illegally erected by Mr. Joe Walker. He would have been prevented from asserting his ancient right to travel that way. He might then have retraced his steps and taken another old walking route across the head of Glencree valley. Again, in this instance, Niall Collen, head of the Collen construction company, would have stopped him in his tracks. This story is being repeated throughout Ireland. As Keep Ireland Open stated in its submission to the All-Party Committee on the Constitution, open commonages have been divided and fenced and access to beaches, archaeological sites and other amenities has been denied. Clearly, a problem exits in Ireland in terms of trying to assert one's right to roam. People are being fenced-in and prevented from exercising their ancient right to walk across lands.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, last night described this Bill as being misguided, bureaucratic, not workable but possibly well intentioned. We must be doing something right if he is getting so worked up about us. It is not good enough to say dialogue can and should resolve such issues. We have had dialogue for the past 11 years. Groups such as Keep Ireland Open feel they are talking to a brick wall on this issue. I do not think dialogue is working. I would accept such a statement if this issue had arisen only in the past six months but not when people seeking these rights have tried for more than a decade to have them made manifest. It can be done.

The UK Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 may not have got everything right but it is a step in the right direction. I am quite often accused of advocating the Swedish model in Ireland. Swedish legislation provides that all persons shall have access to nature in accordance with the rights of public access. We must look abroad at what is happening to ensure our ancient rights are protected. The procedure is a simple one. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, in the course of its last development plan, obtained all-party consensus to a list of rights of way. The list was included in the draft plan——

Is the Deputy arguing against himself now and saying the rights exist under the current development plan?

It is the exception that proves the rule.

I am simply suggesting that——

The Deputy is saying that such a right is included in the development plan.

The Minister of State should not interrupt.

Other county councils can choose not to do it, and are not doing it.

The Minister of State should allow Deputy Cuffe to speak.

I thank the Chair for defending my right to speak. While Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council included the list in a discretionary manner, the majority of county councils are not bothering to do so because it is not a mandatory provision of their development plans. You know that well, Minister of State. How dare you suggest that all councils would politely follow the lead of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

Deputy Cuffe should address his remarks through the Chair.

The rights of way are listed in the draft plan, landowners' concerns are considered by the manager and are either dropped, amended or curtailed. The revised list is then agreed by the council and an advertisement is placed in the newspapers. It is then up to the council to approve the list. This is not rocket science; it can be done. We are simply stating that enactment of this Bill would ensure it is done, which is a long way away from the point of view of the Minister of State.

The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Ó Cuív, and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, asked what would happen if a right of way was left out. One can state that the list is not a complete list, thereby ensuring other rights of way could be included. I do not see any particular problem arising. Mention was made that all the planning legislation had recently been reviewed and the question was asked why we should go back to review a small part of it. The Government filleted the heart out of the social and affordable legislation a mere two years after it was passed. How dare the Minister of State suggest we should not amend the Planning and Development Act 2000 which he states is perfect. The Government plucked the guts out of social and affordable housing and left Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, trying to defend a miserly 300 social housing completions out of 70,000 private houses built last year.

I will talk to the Deputy after the budget.

How dare the Minister of State suggest that we should not tamper with an Act that looks so great.

Mañana fever again.


Deputies should not mention the names of people outside the House.

Do not be so provocative. I am in fear and trepidation in my seat.

Gabhaim buíochas as mo chomhghleacaí, an Teachta Gogarty, urlabhraí turasóireachta, as an Bhille seo a ullmhú agus a chur os ár gcomhair, agus leis na Teachtaí Glasa eile a labhair go láidir ar a shon. Gabhaim buíochas fosta leis na Teachtaí neamhspleácha, Sinn Féin, Páirtí an Lucht Oibre agus Fine Gael a thug tacaíocht don Bhille seo.

This is a Bill, as the Minister of State knows, which deals only with rights of way and not with mass paths, green roads or private access routes. When living in Cork, I had to pass through a farmer's yard to get to my house, even though it was not a public right of way. It is important we do not try to confuse the issue which is, as Deputy Deenihan said, only about a relatively small number of routes. It is important to at least clarify that much in law.

I am surprised there is no Progressive Democrats Member in the House. The status quo victimises farmers, landowners and walkers in that the uncertainty surrounding basic issues of rights of way does nothing other than excite and interest ruthless speculators who can then purchase the land, have it rezoned and then privatise the route to the particular amenity and profit hugely on the back of legal clarity. Perhaps the Progressive Democrats Members did not contribute to the debate because they want the status quo. Who knows?

We need to thank the Keep Ireland Open group for its initiative, the Mountaineering Council of Ireland for its work and all the walking groups such as the Fingal Walking Club in my constituency, the landowners, the ICMSA and IFA who have given advice on this Bill. It is important to recognise that this Bill has come about through consultation.

Aithnítear go bhfuil traidisiúin tuisceanach i measc formhór úinéirí talúin a thugann cead do agus a chuireann fáilte roimh shiúlóirí, ach tá an cairdeas sin faoi bhagairt ag cúpla úinéir talúin atá imníoch faoi shiúlóirí toisc cúpla siúlóir a thugann droch-chlú ar shiúlóirí eile, agus ag an titim mhór i líon na siúlóirí. As my colleague, Deputy Gogarty, said last night, walking is an important but declining part of our tourism industry. According to Fáilte Ireland, approximately 320,000 overseas walkers visited Ireland in 1993 but, by 2002, 100,000 of them had been lost to us and it is possible they will never return. Last year, 50,000 fewer walkers visited Ireland, representing a 23% decline in 12 months. Given the remaining sectors of the tourism industry are only holding up following the atrocities of 11 September 2001, why is Ireland haemorrhaging walking tourists? That is a valid question. We are endeavouring to provide some clarity. Níl aon dabht má tá Comhairle na Tuaithe le réiteach tuisceanach a fhorbairt le leas siúlóirí agus úinéirí talúin gur gá freastal ar na cuairteoirí a thagann anseo, a cheannaíonn léarscáileanna agus atá ar lorg bealaí siúil.

Mention has already been made that other countries — Ireland is the exception — such as England, Wales, Scotland and others throughout Europe have legally recorded hundreds of thousands of miles of pathways on maps. The Government is running away from and ignoring this issue. One must ask what is its motivation in ignoring such a basic issue. Is gá athbhreithniú gach cúig bhliain ar phlean forbartha an chondae mar scriosann stoirmeacha roinnt cosáin atá cois farraige. It is valid that there be reviews of development plans. This issue is not only affected by landowners but by storms which take away rights along our coast. It is important we have an opportunity to review and amend such plans. Mar a dúirt an Teachta Mildred Fox, is gá an soiléiriú. Nach fearr an soiléiriú ar léarscáil tar éis oibre an chomhairle chondae seachas ag geataí na feirme? Much of the review is done at the farmgate which is a confrontational way. Tá doras na cúirte níos measa fós. Tuigeann go leor uinéirí talúin gur fiú fáilte a chur roimh siúlóirí. Má tá feirmeoir gortaithe ar a thalamh, is fearr go mbeidh siúlóirí ag teacht thart air seachas é a bheith ina aonar. Aontaím leis an Aire, an Teachta Ó Cuív, gur fiú Comhairle na Tuaithe ach tá muid ag iarraidh air aontú linne gur fiú cosán dleathach agus aontaithe a chur i bplean an chondae, mar a tharlaíonn thar lear. Níl an Comhaontas Glas amháin ar lorg reachtaíochta, tá an ICSA ar lorg reachtaíochta, it is asking us to look at the 1994 example in New Zealand, agus tá muid ag rá go bhfuil leigheas againn ar an scéal agus nach bhfuil ag an Rialtas ach siopa cainte.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 58; Níl, 80.

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Padraic.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Murphy, Gerard.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.


  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Breen, James.
  • Brennan, Seamus.
  • Browne, John.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dempsey, Tony.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Fox, Mildred.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McDaid, James.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donnell, Liz.
  • O’Donoghue, John.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Ned.
  • O’Malley, Tim.
  • Parlon, Tom.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wright, G. V.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Boyle and Stagg; Níl, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher.
Question declared lost.
Sitting suspended at 1.45 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.