Ruling in hill walker case will be a ‘disaster’ for Kerry

Call for council to support appeal against €40,000 damages award to woman

People out walking in Wicklow with Lough Dan in the background.  Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

People out walking in Wicklow with Lough Dan in the background. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

A court award of €40,000 for a woman who fell on a rotting boardwalk while walking on the Wicklow Way would have “disastrous” consequences for Kerry, councillors have claimed.

The county has the oldest national park , the Killarney National Park, and the highest mountains in the country. With considerable built infrastructure on walkways, walking in the county was at risk from the court decision, councillors said.

On Friday at the Circuit Court Judge Jacqueline Linnane said Teresa Wall (59) had been directed by signs to use the boardwalk which, the court held, was a structure placed on the land by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Judge Linnane said it was clear from photographs produced in evidence that the boardwalk had been made up of second hand wooden railway sleepers that were badly rotted with protruding staples loosely holding down chicken wire.

Sources confirmed on Monday appeal papers against the award are to be lodged within a matter of days.

Currently sleepers aid walkers on Torc Mountain near Killarney, which is under the remit of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Work was also underway on providing stone paths on Carraountoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain, which is privately owned.

“This ruling, if allowed stand, will affect Kerry more than any other county because of its built structures like the sleepers on Torc. You can’t describe the result of what effect it would have,” Fianna Fáil councillor John Joe Culloty, a keen hillwalker, said at a meeting of the county council in Tralee.

Councillor Michael Gleeson of the Kerry Independent Alliance said he had deep concern about the award. “If we are going to go down that track, it would be a disaster,” Cllr Gleeson said.

Kerry County Council, if necessary, should support the appeal, he told the meeting.

A new report to the council revealed that “At least one in every five jobs and businesses in the county depend on tourism...This makes Kerry more dependant on tourism than any other county in Ireland, ” it said.

Adventure tourism and eco-tourism offered great potential, the report highlighted.