More rights for walkers would be "very good" for tourism, Keep Ireland Open has said.
The campaign group is calling for renewed debate on giving people the right to walk across private land and believes current legislation is too restrictive.
It says the Right to Roam is an ancient custom that allows anyone to wander in open countryside – whether the land is privately or publicly owned.
In Ireland, access to land is generally governed by ownership and rights of way and Keep Ireland Open (KIO) Chairman Robert Dowds thinks opening up more areas to walkers would strike a good balance between the interests of the public and farmers.
“What Keep Ireland Open is looking for is not a right to roam here, there and everywhere,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.
“What we’re looking for is a situation where rights of way can be created and where people stick to paths rather than roam anywhere.
“We need legislation for two reasons; one, to establish rights of way, particularly where there’s already permissive access and where public money’s been spent.
“Secondly, to protect access which has been regularly cut off from people.”
In England, people have had a limited right to roam across land since 2000 if they are walking, running, watching wildlife or climbing.
Certain types of farmland are exempted and dogs must be kept on a lead at all times.
A network of pathways has also been developed and Mr Dowds believes this has brought significant benefits to rural communities.
“[It] gives great access for tourists and walkers - which is very good for people’s health,” he said.
“It’s also very good for the tourist industry, it brings a lot of money into areas.
“The Devon and Cornwall coastline is open to walkers the whole way along and that is of great benefit to people.”
'This is our work place'
Also on the show, the Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association Vice President John Joe FitzGerald believes establishing a right to roam "won't work" and wants the legislation left untouched.
“There are existing paths that walkers use… but that’s as far as it goes,” he said.
“The right to roam won’t work, it doesn’t work… and at the end of that day this is our workplace.
“I don’t think any other industry would tolerate having people walk through their workplace during the day and roaming through their backyard.”
Mr FitzGerald said it is important farmers maintain the right to “protect our private property” and claimed many have experienced abusive behaviour from walkers.
“From Donegal right down to West Cork, we have an elderly generation of farmers, those in their 60s and 70s, giving up going [up] the hills on the weekend and bank holidays because of the abuse and physical abuse these people get at the hands of walkers,” he said.
Mr Dowds said any abuse of the farming community was “totally unacceptable”.
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Main image: Dog walkers on a beach. Photo: Sam boal/Photocall Ireland