Indemnity scheme needed ‘to protect landowners and provide access to countryside’

Indemnifying landowners is a complex issue; the legal rights of landowners must be respected while endeavouring to facilitate access to their lands for recreational users on a permissive basis.

The introduction of such a scheme is a key priority for the Department of Rural and Community Development in an effort to protect landowners and to support the continued provision of access to the countryside for recreational users.

These were the sentiments expressed by the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring, during Dáil proceedings last week after he was asked by Fine Gael’s deputy Tony McLoughlin about the status of his proposal to introduce an indemnity scheme for landowners in relation to the use of their land for recreational purposes.

Minister Ring said his department had been working for some time to develop a scheme to indemnify private landowners – particularly in upland areas – with regard to the use of their lands for recreational purposes.

This is a complex issue and the legal rights of landowners must be respected.

“At the same time, we must try to facilitate access to their lands for recreational users on a permissive basis,” he continued.

“The introduction of such a scheme is a key priority for my department to protect landowners and to support the continued provision of access to the countryside for recreational users.”

‘Exploring the options’

Minister Ring went on to say that his department has been advised that an indemnity scheme – such as the one envisaged – will require legislative provision.

He pointed out that his officials had met with representatives of the Attorney General recently to explore the various options open to the department and to identify the precise legislation that would be required to implement the necessary scheme.

It appears that a number of separate pieces of legislation could require amendment.

The minister added: “In light of the complexity involved, I am also considering other options that might be available to address the matter as an interim measure.

“My officials have been making inquiries into alternative options and will continue to work to find a solution that meets the concerns of landowners who provide access to their lands for recreational purposes.”

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