Hills alive as 17-year walker row resolved
THE hills were alive with the sound of trails re-opening in one of Ireland's most spectacular beauty spots yesterday as a bitter stand-off between a landowner and hillwalkers was finally resolved.
For the past 17 years, Sligo farmer Andy McSharry, who called himself The Bull McSharry after the John B Keane character in 'The Field', waged war against hillwalkers who trespassed his land in the shadow of Ben Bulben mountain.
Mr McSharry, who served a jail term in 2004 after refusing to pay a fine following a conviction for threatening hill walkers, posted signs everywhere and patrolled his land on a quad to keep walkers out.
But yesterday, following an undisclosed agreement with Comhairle na Tuaithe, the group set up by Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Eamon O Cuiv to improve access to the countryside, the signs had all been removed and Mr McSharry even suggested he would be greeting walkers with a welcoming cup of coffee.
"At the end of the day our rights through Comhairle na Tuaithe have been recognised. We have to cut out a living on the side of our mountain and we will continue to do so," he said.
Mr O Cuiv was on hand to welcome the agreement, which will enable walkers to freely access Ben Bulben from the Gleniff Horseshoe valley. The minister insisted that no money was involved.
"What we are working towards is good access to hills and that hills will be open. What we need is respect of people's ownership and people's privacy and if that can be resolved then progress can be made," he said.