New laws are being drafted to better protect landowners from potential lawsuits from walkers and hikers who injure themselves on their land.
aws are made to provide for voluntary risk-taking if a person voluntarily places themselves in a position that they know could result in harm.
It comes as the increased commercialization of walking and hiking has angered many landowners as they see other parties earning revenue from activity on their land without any consideration of their liability.
The issue was raised by a number of farmers at an Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association meeting in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, in recent days, where concerns were highlighted across the country.
One farmer said ‘monuments and trails’ were advertised by ‘tour operators and local authorities’ as places of interest to visit without consultation with landowners.
“There is a liability issue with this for farmers. In most cases, the landowner is unaware that these people are advertising and there is concern across the country,” he said.
Addressing the meeting, Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue called the concerns a ‘right point’ and said the government is now drafting legislation which would ‘rebalance’ the responsibilities of each party to better cover those who own property or land and to make those who use it more responsible”.
“It’s something that has contributed significantly to insurance premiums and payments. All responsibility and risk rests with the landowners,” he said.
Responding to a parliamentary question on the matter last month, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said her department had completed a review of the Occupiers Liability Act and said she was now considering the introduction of provisions to ensure that a more balanced approach is applied. case of bodily injury.
She said the provisions will allow for appropriate indemnities that reflect what she described as a “common sense approach” to liability.
“It will clarify the law by codifying the understanding of liability in accordance with recent superior court decisions.
“I am also considering introducing a provision allowing voluntary risk-taking, where if a person voluntarily places themselves in a position which they know could cause harm, they cannot succeed (with a) claim against the occupant of the property,” she said.
Last August, the use of liability insurance policies to compensate private upland owners, who allow access to their land for recreational purposes, was piloted by the Ministry of Rural and Community Development.
A liability insurance policy has been taken out for the two existing areas of the mountain access project – the MacGillycuddy Reeks in Kerry and Binn Sléibhe in Galway.
This pilot solution was developed in consultation with Comhairle na Tuaithe and is being implemented on a two-year trial basis.