Walkers get temporary access to Sligo land

 

A temporary truce was reached between farmers and hillwalkers in Co Sligo at the weekend after months of tension over the issue of access to private land.

Gleniff sheep farmer Mr Andy "The Bull" McSharry, who went to jail last January for refusing to pay a fine imposed for intimidating walkers on his land, said the one-day "peace deal" on Saturday was part of a "goodwill gesture" on behalf of local farmers.

"We recognised long before now that the only way of resolving the issue was through negotiations. Ian Paisley went to Government Buildings this week. Surely, the two sides in this dispute can sit down and talk."

Under a one-day "licence agreement" with the Mountaineering Council of Ireland and Sligo Mountain Rescue, the farmers allowed up to 40 walkers on to their land for a traditional hiking event that ended in Mullaghmore.

Mr McSharry, backed by the Irish Cattle and Sheepfarmers' Association, gave out free hot drinks and biscuits to the walkers, who had first to show the farmers that they were fully insured for any accidents that might have occurred on the day.

A similar event is being planned for early next year. However, Mr McSharry said protests would continue against walkers who took to farmers' land without seeking their permission. "We are looking to be compensated in some form," he said. "The group that was here this weekend brought money into the hotel in Mullaghmore.

But the farmer has earned nothing out of it." The Minister for Rural, Community and Gaeltacht Affairs, Mr Ó Cuív, has rejected calls from the farmers to be compensated through the taxpayer.