The attorney general is being consulted on legislative changes that would be needed to indemnify farmers and private landowners against potential insurance claims made by walkers.

A spokesperson for the Department of Rural and Community Development told the Irish Farmers Journal that the Department had been examining the issue.

“This is a complex issue and the Department has been advised that an indemnity scheme such as has been proposed would require legislative provision and that a number of separate pieces of legislation might need to be amended,” they said.

“In light of the complexities involved, the Department has been considering alternative approaches, including an insurance solution, which might be available to address the matter as an interim measure.”

They continued by saying that the introduction of a pilot insurance policy was being pursued for the two existing mountain access project areas (MacGillycuddy Reeks and Binn Shléibhe).

“This is being brought forward in consultation with Comhairle na Tuaithe (The Countryside Council), and this process is at an advanced stage,” they said.

IFA hill committee chair Flor McCarthy has expressed serious concerns about recreational users not abiding by the Countryside Code during the recent good weather, with reports of dogs wandering from designated trails into private land.

He said the Government’s commitment to expanding the Walks Scheme was welcome but that they had to ensure the expansion “progresses at once.”

“The IFA is, and always has been, in favour of recreational walking, but the farmer can’t carry a financial risk from this activity,” he said.

“The insurance/indemnity issue is ongoing for farmers. Details of a pilot insurance policy have been discussed. However, currently, nothing is in place to provide farmers with indemnification.

“The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, must ensure the proposed pilot insurance policy is implemented without delay.”