Dáil Éireann - Volume 569 - 26 June, 2003

Written Answers. - National Parks.

  110. Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the reason he gave a licence to the Ramblers Club for an organised walk in the Wicklow Mountains National Park; the number who were permitted on this licence; if his attention was drawn to or if he took into consideration the fact [1220]that the National Park Council and the mountaineering council had agreed that the number should be limited to 50 people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18185/03]

  Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Cullen): In consultation with the Mountaineering Council of Ireland, MCI, and with the endorsement of the Wicklow Mountains National Park Council, it has been the policy of my Department that any organised walks in Wicklow Mountains National Park involving in excess of 50 persons should require a permit from the National Park management which may or may not be granted, depending on the circumstances prevailing at the time of an application. This permitting arrangement is not statutorily based, but is considered prudent given the large numbers of persons who frequent the park and the sensitive nature of some areas of the park and its landscape.

  Discussions took place earlier this year between my Department and the president of the Irish Ramblers Club, which is affiliated to the MCI, about the organisation of the Lug Walk in the Wicklow Mountains National Park on 21 June 2003. In seeking a permit for the walk on 14 April 2003, the club indicated that up to 250 persons would take part in this event, and a permit in relation to this proposal was refused by the national park management.

  However, following further discussions, the club indicated on 5 June 2003 that it was in a position to restrict the numbers significantly from the original figure, to 120 persons. In the light of this development, it was decided to grant a permit to the Irish Ramblers Club – restricted to 120 participants – in view of the imminence of the event which had already been publicised and was established over many years; and the fact that the club had made a significant gesture in reducing the numbers participating from 250 to 120. My Department does not regard this decision as establishing a precedent for other group walks or for the organisation of the Lug Walk in future. As already outlined, the stated policy in relation to organised walks is to require specific consultation of organised walks involving more than 50 people on the basis of prevailing and evolving circumstances.

  In granting the permit, my Department advised the club that it should endeavour to keep the numbers participating in the walk as low as possible. I am informed that the club complied with this advice and that the eventual number which participated in the Lug Walk was 113 persons, with 106 persons completing the event.