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Stile connecting the Djouce summit track to the Wicklow way. Jimmy Harris
court appeal

Wicklow Way could "disintegrate" if €40k in damages awarded to walker

Some Wicklow Way landowners are allegedly considering withdrawing permission allowing hillwalkers on their lands if the ruling stands.

THE FUTURE OF the Wicklow Way will be in doubt if a lower court’s decision to award €40,000 in damages to a hillwalker who tripped and fell on a wooden boardwalk that forms part of the trail is upheld, the High Court has heard.

Pat Mellon, a Rural Recreation Officer with Wicklow Partnership told the High Court on Friday the popular 130km Wicklow Way could “disintegrate” if a Circuit Court ruling that Teresa Wall was entitled to damages following a fall on the boardwalk remains in being.

Her action was against the National Parks and Wildlife Service who placed the boardwalk on the lands.

In his evidence to the court, Mellon said other landowners whose property the Wicklow Way goes through had become concerned about the implications of last April’s Circuit Court ruling.

Some had informed him they were considering withdrawing permission allowing hillwalkers on their lands if the ruling stands. Others could follow and this could result in the closure of the Wicklow Way which runs from South County Dublin, through the Wicklow Mountains and ends in Co Carlow.

Mr Mellon, who works with landowners in Co Wicklow in order to facilitate hillwalking was giving evidence before Mr Justice Michael White on the third day of the NPWS’s appeal against the Circuit Court’s decision.

He said that a scheme is currently in place where a small payment is made to any landowner who allows hillwalkers on their lands that forms part of a designated trail.

Once a trail gets approval from the national accrediting body, the National Trails Organisation, insurance on the private landowner’s property on that trail is covered by Irish Public Bodies.

However Mellon said getting landowners to give hillwalkers permission to go onto their property had previously been “a tough sell”. However since the Circuit Court’s decision it had become “an impossible sell.”

He said the Wicklow Way goes through lands owned by the NWPS and Collite, plus some 38 private landowners.

Since the Circuit Court’s ruling three private landowners have informed him they would withdraw their permission for walkers to go on their land.

In her action, Wall says she fell after her foot snagged in a hole in one of the old railway sleepers that makes up a boardwalk on part of the trail.

The accident occurred close to the JB Malone memorial on the Sally Gap to Djouce trail near Roundwood on 6 August 2013.

Wall, aged 60, from Rathingle Cottages, Swords, Co Dublin said she suffered a gash to her right knee which required seven stitches, and was left in severe pain for some time afterwards.

Arising from the accident, she sued the NPWS for damages in the Circuit Court alleging it had been negligent and in breach of its duty of care towards her.

She claims the NPWS permitted a defect to be present in in the boardwalk where the timber had rotted away, created a tripping hazard, left the boardwalk in an unsafe condition and created a public nuisance at the site.

The claims are denied. The NPWS says Wall contributed to her injuries by not looking where she was going and was the author of her own misfortune.

Last April Judge Jacqueline Linnane at Dublin Circuit Court ruled in favour of Wall’s claim. Reasonable care had not been taken to maintain the boardwalk in a safe condition and this failure was responsible for Wall’s injuries.

Judge Linnane said it was clear from the evidence before her that the boardwalk had been made up of second-hand, wooden railway sleepers that were badly rotted with protruding staples loosely holding down chicken wire.

The NPWS appealed the decision to the High Court.

The appeal resumes in two weeks time.

Comments are closed as the appeal is ongoing.

Read: Woman who won €40k in damages after Wicklow fall faces questions over version of events

Read: Gardaí investigate raid on Permanent TSB cash machine in Wicklow

Aodhan O Faolain