There are areas of the country which have registered easements, which are similar to rights of way, specifically for the purpose of hunting.
This is normally clearly identified on the title deeds of the lands or on the folio.
It is important to clarify if such rights exist before taking any legal steps in the case of buying land.
In this case, the first port of call would be to examine the deeds or folio as the lands are located near to traditional hunting grounds.
Hill Walkers vis-a-vis Shooters
The law has created a category of people called the 'recreational user', that is, an entrant who, with or without the occupiers' permission, is present on lands without having paid a charge, for the purpose of engaging in a recreational activity like hill walking.
'Recreational users' are treated in the same manner as trespassers by the law.
All that is required of the landowner in respect of these persons is that the landowner does not injure them intentionally or act with reckless disregard for them.
Dogs and 'Worrying' Livestock
If a dog attacks, kills or chases livestock in such a way as may reasonably be expected to cause death, injury or suffering to the livestock, or results in financial loss to the owner of the livestock, the owner of the dog is guilty of an offence and these offences should be reported to the gardaí.
In the case of sheep that you suspect were subject to a higher than normal rate of still born progeny, you should have this confirmed by a veterinarian, whereby, the dog owner would likely be guilty of an offence.
Of course, any criminal acts for example shooting arms without the appropriate license or outside of the permitted season or killing of endangered species, should be reported to the gardaí.
Although criminal sanctions may prevent a hunter/shooter from committing a criminal act it will not compensate the land owner for damage and loss caused.
It is possible to take an action for trespass even where no damage is caused to the lands if the shooter does not have permission to enter the lands and knowingly does so.
Where there has been no damage whatsoever, the likelihood of securing any significant compensation is small.
However, if damage which can be quantified by a valuer or veterinarian and can be shown to have resulted from the hunting/shooting on the lands or indeed the presence of dogs, the land owner can bring a civil claim to recover the cost of the damage from the party that caused it.
Permission to Enter and Shoot
It is essential that persons authorised to enter farm lands for the purpose of shooting and/hunting can show that they do have this permission as it falls to the hunter to show that they hold this permission.
Some gun clubs obtain verbal or written permissions from landowners in advance of the season to ensure that they have the necessary permission for members.
This is certainly an area which requires caution and sensitivity as many land owners and members of the community have strong views on both sides of the debate.
Theresa Murphy is a barrister based in Co Galway email: firstname.lastname@example.org