Hillwalkers and farmers
Sir, – In 2014 tourism brought a benefit of €3.5 billion into the Irish economy.
In the rural county of Cumbria, in the northwest of England which includes the Lake District National Park, tourism brought a benefit of £2.2 billion (€2.8 billion) into the local economy in 2013.
Tourism in Cumbria provides employment for 33,000 full-time jobs and up to 56,000 during the peak season.
Cumbria, which has about 10 per cent of the population and land mass of Ireland, is well known, like Ireland, for world-class landscapes, heritage and culture with a year-round tourism industry.
Like the rest of England, tourists have access to hundreds of signed and designated, public paths and walkways through farms, moors, hills, lakesides, and mountains. They can walk or cycle a long-distance trail every day for weeks without having to move from their holiday accommodation. This would not be possible in Ireland, because there is little or no access to the countryside, other than walking or cycling along the road system. Because of these restrictions for access to the countryside, Ireland will never be able to create a genuine and financially beneficial outdoor leisure tourist industry.
Surely we need to create conditions which will benefit rural communities in the future.
The farmers of Ireland owe it to the taxpayers of Ireland to begin discussions with the Government to allow regulated designated public access to the countryside. This will allow the conditions to create a financially beneficial outdoor leisure tourism industry.
I have spoken to many farmers in Cumbria over the years regarding walkers and cyclists having regulated designated access over their lands. They have told me that they were very dubious at first when the Right to Roam legislation became law in 2000, but they have since seen so many benefits to themselves, including local employment for their children.
Surely it is time for Ireland to “wake up and smell the coffee” and utilise the beautiful countryside for the benefit of all.
– Yours, etc,
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