Efforts to ‘reinforce and strengthen’ landowners and countryside access for all

On June 6, last, at Comhairle na Tuaithe’s first meeting of 2019, the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring, presented a new mandate to the council in an effort to “reinforce and strengthen” its advisory role in relation to the sustainable development of the outdoor recreation sector in Ireland.

Comhairle was also asked to identify opportunities to develop rural enterprises based on outdoor recreation activity, and to consider the scope for the development of a new National Strategy for Outdoor Recreation, while at the same time taking account of recent developments and investments across the sector.

These were the sentiments expressed by the minister during Dáil proceedings recently after he was asked by Fianna Fáil’s deputy Eamon Ó Cuív to outline the progress made by his department in relation to the promotion of mountain climbing and the mountain access scheme since 2011.

Access to the countryside

Responding, he pointed out that under a Comhairle na Tuaithe initiative – in 2011 – a Mountain Access Scheme to facilitate entry to the uplands for hill walking and similar activities was developed in two pilot areas – one at Mount Gable in Connemara and the other in the MacGillycuddy Reeks in Co. Kerry.

Comhairle na Tuaithe also established a Mountain Access Project Steering Group in 2014.

“This was tasked with reviewing progress in the mountain access pilots, developing signage for mountain access pilot areas, and examining the issues around a National Indemnity Scheme,” Minister Ring continued.

“During this time, tendering took place for the design of a mountain access logo, mountain access signage and information panels for the two pilot areas – all of which are now in place.

My department has been working to develop a National Indemnity Scheme to indemnify private landowners.

“There has been a particular focus on landowners in mountain access scheme areas with regard to the use of their lands for recreational purposes.

“When this scheme is in place it will further facilitate access to the countryside for recreational purposes –  including mountain climbing.”