A CAMPAIGNER – hoping to have an 800-year-old right-of-way to an ancient holy well and graveyard at Lough Hyne reopened – is calling for it to be made a ‘test case.’
Dr Edward Walsh, the founding president of the University of Limerick, recently met with the chair of the Oireachtas climate change committee, Brian Leddin TD, to discuss a recent protest, organised by him, to coincide with St Brigid’s Day.
He explained to the Green Party TD how a group of people had gathered at Barlogue in the hope of gaining access to the roadway, which leads to a St Brigid’s holy well and graveyard, but the way was shut behind a high gate and fence.
Dr Walsh raised the matter with Cork County Council but the local authority wrote back saying it was bound by the findings of a Supreme Court decision regarding the Lissadell estate in Co Sligo, namely Walsh v Sligo County Council. In a lengthy letter, the Council pointed out that if someone is blocking a public right-of-way then he or she is committing a public nuisance and ‘it is open to any party that may have suffered special damage by that public nuisance to issue proceedings against the landowner.’
Alternatively, the Council said a party that has not suffered ‘special damage’ has the option of reporting the public nuisance to the attorney general who has the authority to bring public nuisance proceedings to protect the public interest. But Dr Walsh said the Council’s response could place other rights-of-way throughout Ireland ‘under threat’ especially if no one is willing to take a stand against such closures.
He said the Green Party TD ‘agreed to consult with other members of the Oireachtas and explore whether the matter can best be remedied by ministerial order or by amending legislation.’
Dr Walsh also raised the issue with Cork South West TD Christopher O’Sullivan, who is Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on environment and climate action. He called on him to rally cross-party support to protect rights-of-ways and to take ‘action at national level.’
‘Public rights-of-way, especially in such environmentally wonderful places as Lough Hyne, are special and need to be protected,’ said Dr Walsh.
Deputy O’Sullivan said he ‘absolutely agrees with Dr Walsh’s assessment of the need to protect rights-of-way throughout the country.
‘In my time, as a public rep,’ he added, ‘I have seen many examples where traditional rights-of-ways have been blocked by landowners, and this has led to unnecessary conflict in local communities.’
Katharine Kelleher, whose mother owns the land at Barlogue, told The Southern Star, ‘As we have previously stated, this is private land but we have always facilitated reasonable requests.’