Protest over Luggala access gate
Up to 30 people attended a protest outside the entrance to Luggala Estate on Sunday in opposition to the closure of a pedestrian gate each day at 5.30 p.m.
The protest was organised by Roger Garland of Keep Ireland Open, who fears the closure of the gate will have health and safety implications for people using the route to climb Fancy Mountain or Knocknacloghoge if they receive an injury.
'The problem is people often get lost in the mountains or might sprain an ankle. They struggle to get back to the gate and finally arrive at 6 p.m. only to find out it has been closed,' said Mr Garland. 'Walkers could also lose their way in the mist or fall ill and fail to meet the 5.30 p.m. deadline. It is an accident waiting to happen'.
Labour Party Chairperson and election candidate for Wicklow, Jack O'Connor addressed the protest.
He said: 'We all came together to insist that access to this beautiful place, which has always been respected, would continue to be preserved. It is part of our heritage as citizens of Ireland and we want to ensure that visitors would continue can enjoy the stunning scenery as guests of the nation and would continue to get access, through our lifetime, our children's lifetime and their children's lifetime. It is an area of real outstanding scenic beauty'.
Both Mr Garland and Mr O'Connor would like to see the State acquire the relevant part of the property, as recommended by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
'People are concerned that it might be closed off permanently,' said Mr Garland. 'I really think it should be in State ownership and the National Parks and Wildlife Service have recommended exactly that. The house and the land around it are strictly private and should be treated as so. We don't want to disturb that and people are entitled to their privacy but the rest of the land is perfect and ready for recreational use'.
Mr O'Connor said: 'It shouldn't be allowed to fall into the hands of any private corporation, not least one from outside of the country. The Government needs to take the necessary moves to ensure access is maintained, even if that means taking it into public ownership. The Government should certainly be more assertive and robust in their engagement and should consider legislation which would maintain our right of ways and take the whole estate into public ownership and develop it.'
The Guinness Trust, which owns the Luggala Estate, has said that the signs don't change public access to certain areas within the grounds.
'There are no public rights of way or rights of access to any of the estate' said a statement issued on behalf of Barbican International Corporation. 'However, successive owners over recent years permitted public access to certain parts of the estate via the present pedestrian access gate. The terrain at Luggala is mountainous and there are many exceptionally steep and unsafe sections. The owners have a duty of care regarding the estate and, as a result, a decision was taken to erect signage confirming that Luggala is private property and that the pedestrian access gate beside the public road would be closed from 5.30pm each day, a common practice in similar settings over privately owned land'.
Luggala Estate was the former home of Garech Browne, who passed away this year.