Viewpoint: Hillwalking case could shut down the countryside
Published 19/04/2016 | 02:30
It is something that has always been a bone of contention.
Yet a "game-changing" payout that saw a hillwalker awarded €40,000 after falling in the Wicklow Mountains may now prove a deciding factor for farmers nervous over potential liabilities.
Farmers in scenic and mountainous areas will be concerned the judgement will have wider ramifications, and it is hard to blame them.
The case was taken against the National Parks and Wildlife Service when a hillwalker required stitches in her knee after falling on a rotten floorboard along a stretch of the Wicklow Way. The concern now is that this case may potentially open up the floodgates for similar claims.
Opinion is already hotly divided on hillwalkers, with some farmers willingly letting people pass through farms to access scenic points, and others adopting a more fearful approach to their land being used for trails.
The general consensus among farm bodies is that livelihoods could potentially be ruined if farmers are held responsible for injuries sustained by hillwalkers.
Reacting to last week's judgment, the IFA's hill chairman Pat Dunne has warned it could hinder moves to develop the countryside for leisure pursuits and tourism.
He called for all walkways to be developed through agreement and for farmers to be indemnified against any potential claims.