The first protest of 2002 against the privately owned golf course on the Old Head of Kinsale took place yesterday. About 150 supporters of the Free the Old Head of Kinsale Campaign climbed over or broke through the perimeter fencing and walked through the course, once regarded as a public amenity area.
Although a right of way never existed in law on the lands, which were formerly in private ownership as a farm, the campaign maintains that a traditional right of way has been established and that the public should still be allowed to use Old Head as an amenity area.
The developer of the golf course, Mr John O'Connor, has insisted he will not be able to run his business if the public are allowed to roam freely over the expensively manicured and exclusive golf course.
Last year, a number of similar protests were held, after which Mr O'Connor said he would have to close the course if they were to continue. There was widespread support for the golf course locally, he added.
Yesterday's protest involved an estimated 150 people who gathered at 2 p.m. The protest was billed as a family day out, but a large force of golf course security personnel and gardaí were on duty when the protesters arrived.
One of the leaders of the protest, Mr John Jeffries, said afterwards that a wire-cutter was used to breach the wire fencing because the course owners were erecting more and more wire with only one purpose in mind - "to keep the ordinary people out".
According to the course manager, Mr Jim O'Brien, some protesters were unruly. "Some of these people were meandering all over the course and it will take a while for us to establish whether or not any damage was done," he said.
He said a group of 20 local people, representing businesses and local sporting clubs which supported the golf course, carried placards and staged a counter-protest.