Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Questions (146)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

146. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the status of his proposal to introduce an indemnity scheme for landowners with regards to the use of their land for recreational purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23022/19]

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Written answers (Question to Rural)

Sport Ireland Trails (formally The National Trails Office) holds an insurance policy covering approved National Way-Marked Ways and Looped Walks, to protect landowners against claims for loss or damage from recreational users of these trails.

The insurance policy covers trails that meet a specified standard, and includes all trails currently included in my Department's Walks Scheme.

As the Deputy will be aware, my officials have been working to develop a national scheme to protect private landowners in upland areas from possible claims from recreational users while on their lands. My Department has been advised that the introduction of any such indemnity scheme will require legislation.

My officials met with the Attorney General's Office recently to explore the various options open to the Department and to identify the precise legislation which would be required to implement an indemnity scheme.

This is a complex issue, as it is not possible to define trails on hills and mountains in the same manner as the Way-Marked Trails; many of the lands are also commonages.

The legal rights of landowners must also be respected by any scheme, while at the same time trying to maintain access to these lands for recreational users on a permissive basis.

My officials will continue to work to resolve this matter. In the meantime, I will shortly be announcing details of a new mandate for Comhairle na Tuaithe (The Countryside Council) to help strengthen the development of the outdoor recreation sector generally and to realise the potential of outdoor activities for the benefit of rural communities.