The Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has expressed concern over the recent award of €40,000 to a hill walker who claimed successfully against the National Parks and Wildlife Service, following a fall in the Wicklow Mountains.
“This sends out a clear message to farmers and landowners that hill walkers can claim successfully for injuries sustained when walking,” said ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock. “While the claim related to a structure put in place by the NPWS, there will now be a growing fear that this will embolden others to try their luck in the courts.”
Up to now, the state and hill walking lobbyists had been adamant that farmers had nothing to fear because no case had ever succeeded in the courts against landowners or state agencies.
“ICSA has continuously lobbied for a Government national indemnity for farmers who permit hill walkers and mountaineers to walk across their lands, but so far we have not been successful in our pursuit”, said Mr Sherlock. “Hill walking by its nature involves a small degree of risk and those who participate in this activity should be prepared to accept that risk themselves. It is totally unacceptable that a farmer or landowner should find themselves facing a lawsuit through no fault of their own.
“We had made significant progress over the years in fostering good relations with hill walkers. Comhairle na Tuaithe have assisted greatly in encouraging this interaction, but if this judgement is upheld then all that progress will have been reversed.”
The ICSA believes that this ruling has set back all of the progress made in recent years and it makes it difficult for ICSA to encourage farmers to allow access. It also has potential ramifications for the development of cycling routes.