The Irish Times view on the future of Luggala: conservation conundrum

It is debatable whether spending capital funds on acquiring more public conservation land can be justified

The sudden appearance of signs threatening to prosecute hikers at Luggala, Co Wicklow, is most unwelcome. Photograph: Mountaineering Ireland

The sudden appearance of signs threatening to prosecute hikers at Luggala, Co Wicklow, is most unwelcome. Photograph: Mountaineering Ireland

 

The sudden appearance of signs threatening to prosecute hikers at Luggala, Co Wicklow, is most unwelcome. It is also a poor tribute to the memory of the late owner, Garech de Brún, a passionate advocate of our culture and our landscapes, who welcomed walkers on his property. So it is understandable that Mountaineering Ireland should have responded by calling on the Government to acquire 4,000 of the estate’s exceptionally beautiful acres, overlooking Lough Tay, for public recreational use. This land is adjacent to Wicklow National Park, and has significant scientific and biodiversity value. So an argument can be made for putting it directly under the management of agencies best equipped, in theory, to protect it, like the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

However, the currently quoted price tag on the whole estate, including Luggala Hunting Lodge, where de Brún famously entertained celebrated musicians, actors and writers, is €28 million. Even half that figure would be a sizeable slice of the Government’s conservation spending.

We should certainly be devoting far more resources to properly managing our neglected uplands. However, it is debatable whether spending capital funds on acquiring more public conservation land can be justified, when our existing national parks and conservation areas have such paltry current budgets that they are often shamefully degraded. Nevertheless, Mountaineering Ireland’s call should spark a serious national conversation about public access to areas of great beauty and high nature value. Certainly, rights to reasonable privacy, and respect for working farms, need to be balanced with the right of access.

However, good models already exist. Just across the hills from Luggala, Wicklow Uplands Council, Mountaineering Ireland’s affiliate Mountain Meitheal, and others, have imaginatively resolved a long-running dispute over access to the historic zig-zag route up Lugnaquilla. More investment in such schemes is surely the way forward. In the meantime, those offending signs at Luggala should be removed.

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