The Minister for the fence sits on it

 

ALMOST half a year has passed since we were promised action to restore access to one of Ireland's most splendid beaches, near Louisburgh in south west Mayo. But nothing appears to have happened despite placatory words from Tourism Minister Enda Kenny, himself a Mayo man, and the county council.

Uggool beach on the northern shore of Killary Harbour remains fenced off by barbed wire as it has for the past six years. The barbed wire has prevented public access even though Uggool has been a place of recreation for generations.

During all this time, there have been outraged protests from many quarters. But Mayo council has not restored public access although lately it has been spending a fair amount of money to entice tourists.

The fence was erected in 1989 by Mr Gerard Burke, a sheep farmer whose home is at the foot of Mweelrea mountain. He would like to see the lands turned into a national park, provided he got compensation to enable him to set up some where else.

The fence prevents access to several miles of the north coast of Killary fjord, which is one of the last unspoilt stretches of wilderness in Ireland.

Last August Mr Kenny contacted the Mayo county manager, Des Mahon, who informed him that his officials were negotiating with Mr Burke on the matter. But that is the kind of response we have been hearing for six years.

The Keep Ireland Open organisation is now trying to arrange a meeting with Mr Kenny to find out exactly what is going on, and whether he really wants to do anything about it.

It has been argued the fence is an unauthorised development and Mayo County Council could have it removed immediately if it wished. Section 11 (IA) 12 of the Local Government Planning and Development Regulations 1977 says it is wrong to fence or enclose land that has been open to the public for 10 years before and has been used for recreation or access.