The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) have outlined major concerns around the issue of public access and hillwalking and are warning of a very difficult summer if farmer concerns are not addressed.
In discussing this, the association’s National Vice-President, Pheilim Molloy, stressed the need for immediate engagement between State bodies and farmers. This he stated “should focus on addressing the ongoing concern farmers have with regard to members of the public accessing their property”.
“Over the last year, we have seen a major increase in the number of people accessing our hills. This in turn has led to a significant increase in the number of farmers contacting our office distressed and frustrated by some hillwalkers showing scant regard for them and their property,” he said.
These farmers have, continued Mr. Molloy, “outlined details of dog attacks on sheep and the blocking of gateways and access routes through illegal parking. Instances have also been reported of verbal abuse towards farmers when walkers were challenged as a result of disobeying signs”.
Additional concerns outlined by the INHFA representative included gates being left open, fences being broken, and increased litter as well as the ever-increasing risk of fires resulting from a growth in wild camping.
“Farmers have been more than patient, but this patience and their good will is not something that should be taken for granted which is why we need immediate engagement. This engagement must be driven by Minister Martin and supported by our County Councils and include, as a starting point, an awareness campaign around a code of conduct for hillwalkers”.
Concluding, Mr. Molloy stated: “INHFA wishes to acknowledge that the vast majority of walkers are compliant with requirements, however it has to be restated that farmers are very concerned about the prevalence of events as outlined and require an immediate resolution”.