The popular Glenamure Zig Zag walking trail in the Wicklow mountains has been closed after an alleged assault on a farmer by a dog-walker hiking on the trail last weekend.
It has been alleged that farmer Pat Dunne was the victim of an assault involving a walker who had been asked not to bring dogs onto the walking trail but refused on Sunday 19 March.
Dunne, who owns land through which the route travels, had asked walkers not to bring dogs onto the hill following previous dog attacks on sheep.
“The only request in return for open access to our land was that no dogs were brought onto the mountain due to the disturbance they can cause to livestock,” he said after the incident.
“It is not an unreasonable request, as we have had many instances of sheep being mauled by dogs on the mountain.”
Dunne claims that he has been the subject of threats in the past for enforcing the ‘no dogs’ rule, signposted along the route - including a threat to have his house burnt down.
“However, over the years we have had many instances of verbal abuse with people, as they ignored the signage asking for dogs to not be brought onto our lands,” the farmer continued.
“In one case, this even resulted in a threat that our house would be burnt down.
“The final straw came on Sunday 19 March at 11:10am when after repeatedly asking a man and a youth accompanying him to not bring their three dogs onto the track, he physically assaulted me, knocking me to the ground before continuing up the mountain with the dogs.”
Dunne cited this alleged incident being the reason behind the closure of the trail to the public with immediate effect.
The IFA has stated the attack represents a “serious setback” for the relationship between landowners and those who use their lands for recreational purposes.
“Nobody can blame the farmer in question for closing off access when he is subject to this kind of behaviour,” the association’s president Tim Cullinan said.
The walk gave access to the base of Carrawaystick Waterfall and travelled towards Lugnaquilla on a route across entirely private lands.
The agreed access route had been in place since 2007. Dunne was one of the first farmers to allow walkers access to lands for walking by mutual agreement.
Mountaineering Ireland recognised that it is a “particularly sensitive” time of year for sheep on the hills, as the risk of attacks is magnified by ewes being heavily in-lamb or with lambs at foot.
“Unfortunately, this situation illustrates how the poor behaviour of one individual can result in a loss of access that affects the wider recreation community,” the group commented in a statement.
“Hopefully, hillwalkers and climbers will show their support for Pat Dunne and his family by respecting this closure.”
Mountaineering Ireland has requested that no dogs be taken onto hill lands without farmer and landowners’ permission.
RRO gives support
Rural recreation officer with County Wicklow partnership Aaron Byrne stated that there was complete support for the Dunne family on deciding to close route.
“The actions of this particular individual are completely unacceptable. The closure of the trail will come as a huge blow to all the recreational users who benefitted from the goodwill of the Dunne family and enjoyed access to the mountains through their lands,” said Byrne.