New legislation set to protect farmers from claims by hillwalkers

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Farmers will be protected from claims by hillwalkers under new legislation, the Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring has said.

According to the Minister his Department has been working to develop a scheme to indemnify private landowners over use of their lands for recreational purposes, and has been in discussion with the State Claims Agency and the Attorney General’s Office to see how this can be brought about.

A spokesperson for the Minister said he has asked his officials to prioritise the process of identifying the legislative requirements.

It's understood that a new indemnity scheme will be introduced before the end of the year.

"I want to do this, the Department wants to do this and the Government wants to do this. Why should any farmer, if there's a claim against him and his land is being used, why should he have to put his land or his home at risk to defend a case in the courts? That should be done by the State Claims Agency," he told RTE.

"That's the legislation I'm working on now and I'm hoping to be able to roll that out and to get it into the Dáil fairly quickly this year."

IFA National Hill Committee Chairman Flor McCarthy welcomed the announcement that there will be legislation that will indemnify landowners in the event of hillwalkers having an accident and making a claim.

Flor McCarthy said this issue has always been of great concern to landowners, particularly the cost involved in defending any case that could arise.

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“The Minister has pledged to have this in place in 2019 & we would be hopeful that his bill gets cross-party support.”

The Hill Committee Chairman also welcomed the plan to double the number of farmers in the Walks Scheme.

He said the scheme has proved very attractive in creating walkways around the country and the additional €2m in funding will add to the network, and will bring another two thousand farmers into the scheme.

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