It’s good to see The Irish Times putting the apostrophe in the right place today.
Writers need authorities to maintain standards. And The Irish Times is an authority.
I’ve just realised my Freudian slip: “Walkers’ right to roam” it should be.
The editorial highlights a startling statistic:
“… Because individual farmers have closed off their land to hill walkers and recreational users, this section of our tourist industry has declined by about 20 per cent in recent years. And the situation is getting worse…”
I feel really sorry for the tourists. I feel really angry for the natives.
So cross that I want to attack the traditional rights of landowners, “the privacy of farmers and their families…“, as the editorial puts it.
If we accept inherited thinking, and don’t question “the privacy of farmers“, we will never have access to the land.
Background, as I see it:
Irish tenant farmers in the last 19th, early 20th, century were made landowners by the British government: the British government gave a mortgage to Irish tenants to buy out their landlords. Irish farmers became owners of land across which there were precious few rights of way.
The result was a landscape handed into private property. The new owners handed the authority to decide who could walk on the land. They didn’t just get a livelihood, a means of living. As a result, Ireland has hardly any paths over which Jo public can walk freely.
How many walks are there in Ireland?
Before you all start listing the lovely walks you know in Ireland, think comparatively. What do you know about the situation in UK? Do you have any idea how freely you can walk over there? Do you know about the mass trespass that led to the opening of the Pennine Way? Do you know how easy it is to go for a Sunday afternoon walk in the country over in urban UK?
Farming for food is a dying occupation in Ireland. Year on year, farmers are being forced to change their way of life, or move on. The future of the countryside is at stake and it is not safe in the hands of farmers.
We need the countryside for all sorts of reasons: health, biodiversity, beauty… We need some, and only some, of it for food production. Most of it we need for other reasons.
We need conservative farmers, keen to preserve their privacy, like we need a hole in the head.
We need people walking over the land, running over the hills, riding through the hedgerows for the sake of survival.
The Irish Times paraphrases a High Court judge approvingly:
“… it is open to the Oireachtas to legislate to provide facilities for walkers while respecting the rights of property owners…”
I think all property owners should have rights, limited rights. Rights to a private garden through which no one should be entitled to walk without permission. But not rights to acres and acres of farmland treated as if they were garden through which no one has a right to roam.
We need a right to roam everywhere, except a few restricted places. We can argue over those sorts of restriction. But first we, the public, citizens, need to win the principle.
Irish farmers should have their recently acquired rights confiscated, without compensation. [After all they never repaid the mortage they were given by the British government.]
We need an unbalanced settlement, well before the farmers die off.
Privately I love farmers, but I have a greater duty to the unborn: I must prepare the land for their use in perpetuity.
It is bright. Light all over the place. You can’t look anywhere but you see. The dark is gone and I wonder whether it’ll return.
The child is crying. Upstairs in her room with a fresh nappy and a book, she is grumpy, complaining that I haven’t picked her up and started my day half an hour earlier. But I want time for myself. She can stay there safe for a bit longer. I can ignore her until my cup of tea is finished.
Monday morning on a hill in Cork. If it wasn’t for Grace, there would be silence in the house. Instead we have anger. She’ll probably make me pay for this later.
But why should I not have a bit of the light for myself? There are no birds. I don’t know where they live. There are trees lower down the slope, around the edge of the estate. I picture a strong beech tree with grey bark. But there are no birds in the picture. No milkman either. No commuters striding off into the week.
She howls still. Not still. Her lungs are thriving. But it is unusual for Grace to be upset for this long. She is usually ministered unto in good time so that she does not know the meaning of much frustration.
The wiffe is gliding round the house, immerced in a presentation that she has to give to assembled directors tomorrow afternoon. She is not getting dressed. I hear her rooting in a drawer in the kitchen as she sets herself up for a morning working from home.
It is brighter now. As if a searchlight were shining in. No radio yet. There is no point in turning on the radio until seven oclock. But there is no clock either. We have clocks but not in this front room.
I hear rage. It won’t be long before I attend to it. Monday is the start of the week and this one begins with drama. Not the usual calm.
It bothers me that the days are getting shorter now. Every second counts and unless I attend to the little girl I will be sitting on the sofa typing that I am sitting on the sofa thinking that I am sitting on the sofa and she is upstairs growing more angry.
Re-reading is pointless. What is written is written. Writing was simply limbering up for the work of the day.