I propose to take Questions Nos. 141, 157 and 219 together.
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. 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.
I will initiate Comhairle na Tuaithe by reconvening the Consultation Group on Access to Waymarked Ways directly. Subject to receipt of a valid application on behalf of the Rural/Agri-Tourism Advisory Group, to the rural development fund, up to €40,000 is available to enable the initial research, evaluation and pilot actions of Comhairle an Tuaithe to be undertaken by a research-development officer.
I also propose to make provision for maintenance of waymarked or approved locally agreed walks to be included as possible rural services for the purpose of the new rural social scheme.
The rights of farmers in relation to their land and their concerns on liability are critical issues. These and other relevant issues can be debated in Comhairle na Tuaithe.