There is nothing in place to provide farmers with indemnification for recreational walkers on their lands, Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) hill chair Flor McCarthy has said.

He said hill farmers have seen a huge increase in recreational users in recent weeks, as people holiday at home and take advantage of the good weather.

"[The] IFA is, and always has been, in favour of recreational walking, but the farmer can't carry a financial risk from this activity.

“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."

Slow progress

“The Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys must ensure the proposed pilot insurance policy is implemented without delay. We have always supported the process, but we feel the progress is far too slow at this stage," he said.

McCarthy said that while it is encouraging that people are getting out on hills and exercising on the various dedicated trails, the IFA is reminding hillwalkers that they must respect farmers' property and abide by the Comhairle na Tuaithe Countryside Code.


"This includes a stipulation that dogs cannot be taken on to trails whether they are on a lead or not,” he said.

While most people observe the code, some blatantly disregard it, the IFA said, adding that it has come to the organisation’s attention that dogs are wandering off Coillte and National Parks trails on to private land.

The IFA hill chair said that people are welcome to use the dedicated and agreed walks throughout the country.

However, he said they must observe the rules, including the exclusion of dogs.

McCarthy said the commitment in the programme for government to expand the walks scheme to 80 trails was welcome.

"But no progress has been made to date. The minister must ensure this expansion of the walks scheme progresses at once."