Farmers need legal protection against hikers, says minister

  

Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring. Photo: Tom Burke
Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

New legislation will be needed to indemnify farmers who allow hikers on to land, Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring has insisted.

The minister said the laws will not be easy to devise and may take some time.

There is currently an insurance policy in place to cover approved national walkways against claims for loss or damage from recreational users. However, it does not protect private landowners in uphill areas.

Mr Ring plans to introduce a national indemnity scheme but has been told by the Attorney General's office it will require legislation.

"This is a complex issue as it is not possible to define trails on hills and mountains in the same manner as the way-marked trails and many of the lands are commonages," he said. "I want to resolve this matter. It is important that no farmer or other landowner end up before the courts without the protection of the State.

"If landowners are allowing people to go through their lands, the State must protect them however it can. In whatever legislation or scheme I introduce, I must be careful to protect them. They are the owners of the land and they are number one," the minister said.

He was criticised by Sinn Féin's Martin Kenny who said people are being made to wait.

"This will cause a major difficulty," the Sligo TD said.

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