Tuesday, 3 February 2004

Questions (389)

John Bruton

Question:

519 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he proposes to introduce legislation regarding the difficulties with hillwalkers gaining access to walk on farmers’ land; if, in that context, he has been in discussion with the IFA and other farming organisations, the Mountaineering Council of Ireland, and representatives from the Keep Ireland Open campaign; if he is ensuring that an open line of dialogue is being maintained between all interested parties in this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3078/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs)

I have decided to establish a countryside council, to be called "Comhairle na Tuaithe", which will address issues relating to waymarked ways and access to land. This decision follows consideration by the rural-agri-tourism advisory group of a report presented recently by the consultation group on access to waymarked ways, which I established last April. The establishment of a countryside council was the key recommendation of the report. The report has been published on my Department's website,www.pobail.ie. The IFA, Keep Ireland Open and the Mountaineering Council of Ireland have been fully involved in this process.

Comhairle na Tuaithe will be established directly and up to €40,000 will be available to enable the initial research, evaluation and pilot actions of Comhairle an Tuaithe to be undertaken by a research-development officer. I also envisage that maintenance of waymarked or approved locally agreed walks could be included as rural services for the purpose of the new rural social scheme. I am not considering proposals to introduce legislation on this matter.