BY JACKIE KEOGH
THE legality of closing off an established right of way to the Old Rathbarry Church in Castlefreke has been questioned by county mayor Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan.
The issue was raised locally by Tom Byrne, who is based in the UK, but was doing historical research in the cemetery surrounding the church earlier this week.
Mr Byrne told The Southern Star: ‘I was very shocked to see the gate because it looks so severe.’
A standard agricultural gate has been replaced with a high gate that has spikes on top and the adjacent pedestrian stile has also been blocked off with a spiked grill. Mr Byrne said he doesn’t know who put it up, but he did confirm there was a sign inside the gate that said: ‘Dangerous building.’
The researcher said he is not the only person disappointed by the lack of access. He said he met American visitors – who were there to research their ancestry – and they, too, were ‘upset’ to find ‘the mass path’ blocked.
The county mayor claimed the cemetery and the grounds surrounding the church are owned by the Office of Public Works but are maintained by Cork County Council.
Mr Byrne said he followed the matter up with Coillte, which owns and manages some of the woodland, but he was told they would have check to see if they have jurisdiction in that area.
The researcher said he also called into the Council offices in Clonakilty. He said he was advised there that the person in charge of the files for that particular area was on holidays. ‘I don’t know who put the gate up,’ said Mr Byrne, ‘but there is no permit number on it. And, whoever did it, has, in my opinion, demonstrated poor communication with local people.’
Cllr O’Sullivan confirmed that one point of access to the cemetery is still open to pedestrians at the northern side, but the southern side – which leads to the cemetery and the old church – is now completely blocked.
He said: ‘This has opened up a lot of questions about the legality of closing off an established right of way.’ And the mayor – who is an active member of Castlefreke Ours Woods Our Walks – asked: ‘What options are open to the public to prevent this from happening? There is no denying that the public have a right of way because it has been used by generations. My concern is when you go down the route of blocking and impeding established rights of way, where does it stop?’