The Mountaineering Council of Ireland called on the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs yesterday to propose legislation that will provide people with access to private sections of the Irish countryside for recreational purposes.
The call was made after a report on the issue by a legal group set up by the Minister, Éamon Ó Cuív, said "minor interference" with property rights to allow people to enjoy land could be imposed for the benefit of Irish people "without triggering a requirement for compensation".
The report has been sent to Comhairle Na Tuaithe, the countryside council, for it to consider.
"Ireland is alone in Europe in not having access legislation and this expert group clearly sets out a way forward which we hope will be taken up by Minister Ó Cuív," Roger Garland, of the Mountaineering Council of Ireland (MCI), said.
The MCI said farming bodies and landowners should accept that legislation is no threat, but rather "recognition of a modern European view of the sustainable long-term public use of the countryside which is one of this country's most valuable assets".
IFA president Pádraig Walshe regretted the stance taken by the mountaineering council.
"Minister Ó Cuív's expert group is applying a legal solution when consultation and co-operation is the way forward," he said.
Mr Walshe said it was incorrect to say that Comhairle na Tuaithe was moving towards providing a permissive path scheme. "The most recent report said the issues have to be addressed by a range of solutions which must be tailored to specific circumstances," he said.
Fáilte Ireland said 300,000 visitors to Ireland in 2005 intended to go walking or hiking. These people spent €200 million.
Jackie Rumley of Keep Ireland Open said the opening of walkways in Ireland would benefit farmers and their communities.
"When walkers were coming freely to Ireland up to a few years ago they were more likely to return home and buy Irish farm produce because of the good experiences they associated with their time here," he said.
© 2007 The Irish Times