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Minister's actions 'could shut down hill walking'

Tuesday, 13th March, 2018 9:30pm

Minister's actions 'could shut down hill walking'

THE Mayo chairperson of the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association, Gerry Loftus, has called on Agriculture Minister Michael Creed to retract his recent statement which will see farmers held responsible for wildfires they have not lit.

If he fails to do so, stated Mr. Loftus, “the only sensible action for farmers will be to restrict access to their property, which will clearly impact on hill walking.”

Mr. Loftus explained: “Currently we have a situation in my own county where farmers have payments held up due to a fire which none of them had anything to do with and where a non-farmer has been convicted of lighting the fire - albeit by accident.

Unfortunately, the farmers are the ones that continue to suffer and while these farmers and others like them need to have their monies paid out, all farmers will now need to assess what public access to their property means.”

As Mayo chair of the INHFA, he said he was very conscious of the impact that this could have on our tourism sector and would hope that the minister and his officials would see the mistake that this threat is before we get to the point of seeing the hills closed.

This is for the minister and his officials to decide on. If he removes the threat of penalising farmers for fires they have not lit, then this will reassure farmers that they have nothing to fear from the public accessing their land. If he doesn’t remove this threat, then minister, it will be you and your advisors that will have closed the hills.”

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