State to take liability from farmers for hillwalkers’ claims

LEGISLATION protecting farmers from compensation claims by hillwalkers is set to be introduced before the end of this year.

Speaking on RTE's This Week programme, Minister Michael Ring said that the State Claims Agency, not individual farmers, should defend cases taken by hillwalkers who injure themselves on private mountain land.

He indicated that a new indemnity scheme would be introduced before the end of the year.

President of the ICMSA, Pat McCormack, said landowners generally and farmers specifically would be greatly encouraged by the policy direction indicated by Minister Ring.

The minister's remarks, he said, represented a 'long overdue shift' in the state’s approach to the question of liability for claims arising out of access to private land being given to hillwalkers and others.

Finally, he said, the state seemed to have grasped completely the inequity of leaving farmers and other landowners liable for claims against them by people who had been given access to the farmland at the state’s urging or otherwise encouragement.

Minister Ring’s comments that he intends making the State’s Claims Agency the defendant in personal injuries claims – and not the individual farmer – marks a very significant move to a recognition that it is the state pressurising the farmers to grant access to their farm for the purposes of hillwalking, etc., and that it was simply untenable for a situation to develop where the farmer or landowner was actually made personally liable for any claims arising out of their act of generosity and the greater public good.

Commented Mr. McCormack: “ICMSA has never accepted a situation where everyone involved in the tourism and leisure sectors were loudly demanding that farmers open their lands to hillwalkers and others without ever offering to share liability for the personal injury cases that everyone knew would result.

Minister Ring has identified the central injustice here where the person - usually a farmer - who gave access to others to his or her private property was in fact penalised for their generosity by being made personally liable for any claims arising out of people accessing their lands.

It was - and is - an outrageous injustice and ICMSA warmly commends Minister Ring for beginning the long overdue move to correct it.”