‘Difficult to believe downgrading of commitment’ to indemnify landowners

Farmers will “look very hard” at any decision by the government to “downgrade” a commitment to indemnify landowners against insurance claims.

That’s according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), which suggested that an apparent government preference for a public insurance scheme to be operated by local authorities represents a “significant downgrade” from total indemnification of landowners against insurance claims from walkers on their lands.

Pat McCormack, the association’s president, said that a “number of factors needed to be understood and accepted by all parties to the question”, in order to avoid “confusion and wasting anyone’s time”.

The central point that has to be understood and accepted is that the only people actually conceding a right here are the landowners.

“If we move from that realisation forward then we understand that the response to dealing with possible claims arising from their concession of that right – access to their land – has to be one that meets the requirements of the landowners, first and foremost, and is fair to that group. After that, we can judge whether it addresses the concerns of the lawyers and the local authorities,” McCormack stressed.

He added: “[We] emphatically reject the idea that there is any parity of consideration here. The people giving access to their property have to be absolutely satisfied with any arrangements and only then, and after that, should we be seeking the opinions of the other parties to the question.”

The farm leader insisted that farmer landowners would “never accept” a situation where they would not be “removed absolutely from even being the subject of a claim”.

Access to our land for the purposes of hiking, walking or any other forms of pastime should only be considered on the basis that any claim arising from individuals is strictly a matter between parties other than the landowner who gave access to his or her land.

He argued that the state has “pressured” farmers into giving access to land to others for leisure purposes.

“As far as we are concerned – and as far as any reasonable interpretation would be concerned – any claim is exclusively a matter between the state and individual concerned,” McCormack remarked.

“Landowners across the country have been participating in various walking initiatives, and if the government is intent on maintaining this goodwill and progress, then they cannot suddenly decide to back down on their commitment on a national indemnification scheme for landowners,” the ICMSA president concluded.