Thousands of miles of Ireland’s dry stone walls may be knocked and replaced with steel fencing as part of a national road upgrade scheme.
The decision has prompted opposition as many consider dry stone walls to be an integral part of the Irish landscape and a major draw for tourists.
A south Galway group opposing the move have organised a public meeting to discuss the issue.
The N67 between Kinvara and Ballindereen where road widening works are planned will be among the first in the country to be affected.
The plan for steel fencing affects agricultural land along national and secondary routes where farmland is compulsorily purchased for national roads.
The plan forms part of an agreement between the Irish Farmers Association, Transport Infrastructure Ireland and the Department of Transport.
Caroline Corless, spokeswoman of the newly formed 'Destruction to the Gateway to the Burren Kinvara' group (on Facebook) on said locals only became aware of the plan to install steel fencing two weeks ago.
Around 7km of dry stone walls, up to eight feet high in parts, are at risk of destruction as part of planned road works between Kinvara and Ballindereen in south Galway.
“We welcome the work, they are installing a cycle path from Ballinderreen to Kinvara which will be wonderful. But knocking the stone walls and replacing with steel fencing will be a major change to our landscape. The walls form an integral part of our culture, history and our landscape. Their destruction would be a huge loss,” she said.
Secretary of the Dry Stone Wall Association Louise Price said Ireland has the highest density of stone walls in Europe.
“Stone walls are heritage items in their own right, it's not just castles and cathedrals. Tourists come here to see the vernacular structures of Ireland, this is what Ireland is famous for. These walls need to be replaced after the roadworks. The stone can be put aside and rebuilt. There are plenty of skilled craftspeople in the country who can rebuild them,” she said.
Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland member Dick Cronin said stone walls have been a feature of the Irish landscape since the Bronze Age.
“They are an integral part of our farming landscape and an iconic visual point of interest.
This appears to be a lost opportunity to merge necessary infrastructure in the natural and historic landscape,” he said.