State will protect farmers from hill walker claims - Minister
Farmers who open their lands up to walkers and Greenway users can expect the State to provide indemnity against insurance claims, the Minister for Community and Rural Affairs has confirmed.
Speaking to the Farming Independent, he said over the past number of weeks he’s had meetings with a number of bodies and is confident the State will help cover farmers’ risk.
Farmers have been calling for a long promised insurance scheme to protect them for a number of years, with a scheme expected to be announced a year ago, with two pilot projects were rolled out in Mayo and Kerry.
“We are trying to put together a national indemnity scheme to ensure that farmers will not be sued and when people are walking across their land farmers will be protected.
“I've had a number of discussions with the State claims agency and the Attorney General among others in recent weeks I feel we are making progress. It’s a very difficult one for our Department but I am more confident now we can do something very quickly because of the meetings I've had. I will be publishing something very shortly in relation to it.
“We previously gave a commitment that we would get something done this year and I want to get it done. Officials are currently working on it.”
The growth in Greenways and walk ways around the country, he said, has been huge and he thanked farmers who allow their land to be used and allow people to come onto their land.
“At the same time I don't want them to be at risk, they should not be at risk and the State should in some way be covering farmers. That's something we are working on.
“I am more upbeat than I was a few weeks ago. We ran into some difficulties that had been an issue, he said he should be able to get over now.”
Under the 1995 Occupiers’ Liability Act, landowners are responsible for recreational users. In 2016 a hiker sued the National Parks and Wildlife Service after tripping on a boardwalk on the Wicklow way. Her €40,000 award was later overturned by the High Court.
The decision had significant implications for Ireland's national parks and for the future of the Wicklow Way itself.
Had the Circuit Court's decision been upheld fears were expressed during the hearing of the High Court appeal that the popular walking route would disintegrate as private land owners would withdraw their consent allowing walkers on their property.
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