Civil Row looming in Glencolmcille over hill walkers’ rights of way

A civil legal tussle is looming between hill farmers and leisure walkers in Glencolmcille.

This was revealed at Dungloe District Court yesterday, when sheep farmer Cathal Haughey of Ballard, Glencolmcille was convicted and fined for assaulting a walking tour leader.

In court, Judge Deirdre Gearty observed that although much was presented in evidence about rights of way involving a number of farmers, the only case before her was of assault.

She said trespass was a civil matter between the parties, adding that she understood the concerns of 50 year old Mr Haughey. However, she said there was a way to deal with activities that were a worry.

Defence solicitor Francis Gillespie said “These matters are in hand at the moment.”

The row over rights of way was detailed when the farmer denied assaulting walk leader Tony Birthill while he was leading a four-person hiking group at Ballard, Glencolmcille on July 29, 2015.

Mr Birthill told the court that he led a group of four other people on a walk to make a promotional film.

There was an exchange with Mr Haughey, who he claimed struck him a blow which was not very severe, but as he was standing on the side of the hill he staggered backwards.

He thought he should phone Liam O’Cuinneagain, Director of Oideas Gael which runs the school to which the group was linked.

Mr Birthill told the court: “Mr Haughey said you can tell Liam what you want. I’ll sort him out too.”

Mr Haughey told the court he was one of the owners of commonage on the mountain and he grazed sheep there.

He denied assault, saying the contact came when he stretched his arms out to stop the group proceeding further and Mr Birthill tried to walk past.

“He pushed into me then and said to the group that is enough for assault”, Mr Haughey told the court, adding “I don’t agree I struck Mr Birthill.”

Judge Gearty said she was convicting Haughey for an assault which she regarded as on the lower scale. She fined him €100 and fixed recognisances in the event of an appeal.