It is “right and proper” for the right of way changes that were due to take effect from December 1, to be postponed indefinitely, according to Sinn Féin TD Pa Daly.

The Kerry TD, who is a solicitor, said earlier this month that there was an “urgent need” for the registration deadline to be removed.

Yesterday (Tuesday, September 21), Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys secured cabinet approval to enact a bill that will amend the provisions in the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009.

Deputy Daly, the party spokesperson on law reform wrote to Minister Humphreys and Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien on the matter last week.

“The pandemic has made some of the legal and practical complexities involved in registering rights of way close to impossible,” the deputy said.

“Assent by neighbouring landowners was to be required, and in many cases that was extremely difficult to obtain.

“This placed access to homes at risk, and posed an even greater threat to farmers as rights of way cover many issues related to drainage and access.”

Right of way changes caused ‘great concern’

Minister Humphreys said that the changes to come have “been a cause of great concern for many”.

“I have listened carefully to the concerns raised with me by stakeholders, including the Law Society and the Bar Council,” the minister said.

“I am satisfied that, if not addressed, this deadline was likely to lead to a large volume of unnecessary court cases to protect rights which have been enjoyed for generations, and to cause stress between neighbours, unnecessary legal costs, and added court backlogs.

“That is why I am acting quickly to clarify the legal uncertainty that has arisen and to put in place an appropriate solution.”

The amending bill is short, to be enacted before the November deadline, and will address “the main problems arising in the short-term”.

Problematic and difficult issue

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has said that this was a “timely intervention” by the minister and that the association will “support the process and make contributions as and when they affect the interests of our farmer members”.

Pat McCormack, ICMSA president said that questions around rights were “always a matter where it was more important to take the time to ‘get it right’ than it was to overlook the details and ‘get it done’”.

“We’d ask all the parties to this problematic and difficult issue to show patience and accept that these are hugely-complicated matters that rarely fit neatly into one-size-fits-all, preordained solutions,” McCormack added.