Farmers and walking rights


Madam, - So Mary Raftery (Opinion, August 10th) says "the Government should establish once and for all the legal right of each Irish person to tramp the hills and vales of this country in peace".

Would she like to suggest the nationalisation of private property while she's at it? Ms Raftery dismisses the IFA's proposals on walkways and says they fail to "address the issue of wider access to the countryside".

Why did she fail to include the second half of that sentence of our policy which reads: "ensuring that farmers' legitimate interests are recognised"? In a far more reasoned piece earlier this week, your Western Correspondent, Lorna Siggins, quotes John Concannon, chief executive of Ireland-West Tourism, who pointed out: "We're moving beyond access. . . Actual maintenance and development of walking is critical, and a national policy, within which regions can work, has to be the best way to go".

This is what the IFA's policy initiative aims to achieve, and also to secure a balance between the rights of individual owners and the common good. Recognition of the farm as a working environment must be taken into account in any new arrangement.

Ms Raftery's piece is an old-style socialist attack on private property. Debates on access, she contends, end up using the "clincher to all arguments about private property - the Constitution".

In her blatant attempt to establish a new set of rights via an attack on farmers, she has trampled all over the rights of property owners who are entitled to enjoy the protection of their constitutional rights.

What precisely is her point? Is it about adding to the debate on the agreed use of the countryside or merely an opportunity to undermine one of the Constitution's basic tenets by confiscation? - Yours, etc,

JOHN DILLON, President, Irish Farmers' Association, Bluebell, Dublin 12.