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Access to our Native Landscape

In the Landscape Alliance Ireland submission on the then proposed Irish government new Planning and Development Bill 1999, I included a section on rights of way in the landscape, intended to challenge the government to respond to the difficult rights of way conflict in Ireland, by exploring some new or different approaches.

The piece was published in our newsletter of Summer 2000 and it excited strong responses from both sides of the conflict, namely Joe Rafferty, West of Ireland farmer, and Roger Garland of the Keep Ireland Open organisation.

Rights of Way (as submitted by Terry O'Regan, L.A.I.)
The whole issue of rights of way requires to be addressed in an integrated manner at a national, regional, county and local level.

This is necessary at the very least if we are to avoid a growing list of local angry confrontations such as have occurred recently in Donegal and Mayo.

As a people we have an unhealthy attitude with regard to the ownership of land.

For historical reasons Ireland has a poorly developed network of established rights of way. We therefore need to decide where public rights of way are required on an area by area basis.

Rights of way have a wide range of functions to serve in both urban and rural settings, and this has to be recognised in any overall assessment.

Having decided on the appropriate network of rights of way required to serve the needs of the total community, a process of consultation and negotiation must be entered into to address issues such as compensation, maintenance costs, insurance and rules of usage.

We would recommend that each county should establish a rights of way forum, and that nationally there should be a rights of way commission established with the objective of resolving these issues on a planned basis within a defined time framework.

There is a need to distinguish between clearly defined public rights of way, providing access through the landscape of Ireland, and informal rights of way across property.
In the case of private property, is it not time to consider the concept of a right of way licence, in the same way as we have a licence for salmon fishing.

The system would involve walkers purchasing a licence covering the area or county where they wish to walk. For the cost of the licence they would be insured against all possible accidents and the landowner indemnified, and they would receive a licence together with a special numbered sticker for their vehicle and information on the participating landowners in the county, together with a code of practice for behaviour when walking through private property.

Participating landowners might receive an annual payment from the licensing income.

The licence details and the vehicle sticker would provide a landowner with crucial information in the event that they wished to complain about the behaviour of walkers on their property.

Obviously this concept requires considerable research and development, and it is suggested as a means of addressing some of the less than pleasant incidents that have arisen in recent years, and to put in place an organised procedure for providing formal and informal access to the landscape.

Response to the above submission from Joe Rafferty, West of Ireland farmer, Roundstone, Co. Galway.
Artificially created non acceptance or the visible disability to understand the "now" position, must create a "rarity in perception" for the rural strive position, towards some degree of positive thought and knowing, in our official families.

The most difficult person to discuss a problem with is the person paid to say "no".

Decisions are the choice of those in such positions, in many cases, reflective of the minority decisions against the public needs, cementing up the tottering positions we are presented with.

The resulting objection, and/or fight, is taken as being against authority, but nothing is further from the truth. It is official blame caused by selective deafness and not much understanding of or sympathy for the discussed position, from the rural perspective.

Those persons of officialdom have attained the highest educational standards in academia but regretfully, not in common sense or understanding with their client base. That's a tragic position!!

One now is aware that there is a crude system of imposition, bribery and "brown envelope" syndrome, prevalent in our political and business lives.

One must now suspect the ability and quality of people promoted, to lead the 'national' thinking in different areas of government.

One has serious suspicions that it was not merit but the "search" system of promotion that was employed. Such appears at rural level, to be the cause of so many punitive rules and draconian inspections and inspectors - giving rise to the fear they will be found out, if ever they drop their guard.

Rural living forces this perception on the ordinary punter, when the full implications of the many directives are examined.

We are aware that there are fantastic schemes and ideas coming up from the people - the bottom-up section of society at the grass roots! But the twain never fuse - again rural belief is now accepting that these top people are afraid to face the base rural ideas for survival. Possibly 3 reasons exist for this situation:
  1. The bottom-up ideas are more progressive

  2. There is an inability to integrate such schemes, into official pre-cast concrete thinking.

  3. Will acceptance of these ideas cloud the political line to their benefactor, thus losing their place in that line.

My personal feeling is that most committees need to have a practising, practical sociologist available to them - who would have a "field day".

We now are a nation divided at the lower levels of adhesion, one to another, by many factors.

The inroads of television have exerted huge, serious, but not necessarily beneficial influences on rural Ireland. In fact the "visiting house" has all but gone, and with it the expressions of opinion that played such a huge part in forming our thinking, be it objection or support.

This "new era" has been well noted by our different departments, they feel they can then try any rubbish "on", knowing the "thought base" will not be rattled or serious objections passed - so far!!!

The "pub warriors" are in a different more sophisticated atmosphere as some patrons may not be a "known" element, curtailing expression.

The Irish Farmers' Association in parts of rural Ireland has become a non-identity, not raising a rural voice of objection, because it will impinge on their "city" policy, cosy cartels with departments, and with the major farmers, - all now appear to sing from the same hymn sheet.

It's now about national perception and profile, not about living and existing in the rural confines, on limited incomes and restricted outlets of expression.
I am aware they have a fair rural base giving, so far, some support. But one notices the cracks becoming visible, and the "directions" slipping through, much to local surprise.

So your [T.O'Regan] observations on "rights of way" are born into this living and there's a need to explain the concept that's envisaged as these ideas free-flow from your pages to receptive ears, conditioned by anti-rural thinking; but not the use and abuse of any offering with our lands or property that they can get away with!

From the small rural farmers' point of view there are 8 points that need clarification, ever before "money for trespass" is allowed or even contemplated. Some of these points are interlinked. But there are half of them that need much discussion and agreement with the farmers.

Again I must come back to the throwaway line "as a people we have an unhealthy attitude with regard to the ownership of land".

For one moment, we twist that sentence around to read "people have an unhealthy attitude towards farmers owning their lands" - which comes nearer the truth of the "Keep Ireland Open" gospel as preached, and yes, even encouraged others to follow, their abusive and walked-upon line towards small farmers.

Before "rights of way" are even put on any agenda, you must establish the farmers' right to his property and his 8 point basis must be brought into play after full discussion - but not, and I repeat not, with the K.I.O. at any forum, anywhere. They are not the solution but the ongoing problem; informal "rights of way" have never, nor do not at present, exist on any western farmer's lands.

From what you [T.O'Regan] are saying, we will then be "informally" dead on our property.

I have had enough of the research and development, that has all been done by the farmers, but the opinion appears rife that it must be done by the likes of the K.I.O. and their hangers-on before it becomes sacrosanct. No farmer will go down that road, nor do we expect him to follow this line.

To put in place "organised procedure" to formalise rights of entry to owned, private farmer's lands, enclosed or open, will precipitate serious resistance. The action has been wrongly flagged as simple, but it is not.

So far, Terry, have you followed this line of thought?

It has an aggression factor built-in that is not part of our own making, it has been directed and created by the simple truth that there are persons who think they own and can walk on everybody's private lands.

That must stop....... the existence of a right to privacy must be acknowledged and the right to private property, yours, mine, my locality, my area, my county, must first be a national requirement - then, and only then, you can discuss a "right of way licence" but don't hold your breath.

Continuing Conquest of the New World by Antoin O'hEocha, Sculptor
On a trip to the Desert Area of the South West of the U.S.A., one is struck by the stark and dramatic beauty of the area. On a 2,000 mile loop starting from Albuquerque in New Mexico taking in Colorado, Utah and Arizona, I and a friend visited the ancient ruins and sites of the 'Hisatsinom' the ancestors of the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and Dine tribes amongst others. The sophistication of the building skills of these ancient pueblo peoples left us in awe. It was not only the precision of the building techniques, but the more important cosmic criteria that made us realise we were standing in the footsteps of a highly sophisticated, supremely spiritual people.

There is one great example of the culture of these peoples which remains as an enduring testament to the 'Hisatsinom'. This place is called Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. Situated in and around the canyon are amazing pueblos the most impressive being pueblo bonito. Abandoned due to the water table dropping, these peoples moved to more fertile surroundings.

Ironically the Dine tribe, whose ancestors are the 'Hisatsinom' are now facing a disastrous predicament today in the form of European Americans' continuing greed for native Americans' resources. It is believed that the Peabody Mining company has been extracting water on a massive scale from aquifers under the Dine's ancient tribal lands. This alleged illegal extraction, if allowed to continue, will result in drought, starvation and death.

The Dine are not only facing this dilemma, but are also said to be subject to harassment by Agents of the B.I.A. (The Bureau of Indian Affairs), who regularly destroy the Dines' 'hogans', living shelters, and forcibly take away their livestock, mostly sheep.

This is leading to the annihilation of the tribe, as they are shepherds and weavers.

It appears that the U.S. Government wish to re-house the tribe on more barren unworkable lands, without their consent, with a minuscule amount of dollars being offered as compensation. For a tribe who have lived in perfect harmony with their surroundings in Black-Mesa, near Flagstaff, Arizona, this will spell catastrophe for the Dine. Another extremely disturbing fact is that the proposed re-location lands allegedly contain contaminated areas with nuclear waste and poisonous water.

This to any sane, normal thinking person amounts to no less than genocide. These people desperately need our support and media attention.

For further information visit the website







"Pueble Bonito"
Chaco Canyon New Mexico

"Pueble Bonito"
Chaco Canyon New Mexico

Mesa Verde National Parik

"Pueble Bonito"
Chaco Canyon New Mexico