CIE HAS insisted that it will fight any attempt by North Kerry farmers to claim ownership of the old Limerick-Tralee railway line.
A row over the property erupted two weeks ago when protesting farmers erected a barricade on the Kerry border outside Abbeyfeale to block 150 leisure walkers from accessing the disused line.
The farmers, who have formed a protest body called the North Kerry Abandoned Rail Line Action Group, are currently in dispute with CIE over the ownership of the old line, which could be worth up to €1 million.
However a spokesperson for CIE told the Limerick Leader that the rail line is its property, and will remain so.
“It is a legal issue at the moment. But the land registry clearly states that the land is in our ownership, and we will continue to assert that”.
The controversy has been sparked by plans to extend the Great Southern Trail, a walking and cycling route which runs along the old rail line from Rathkeale to the Kerry border, into county Kerry.
A tense stand-off took place for over three hours between farmers and walkers on February 2, after a barricade was erected on the border at Kilmorna to coincide with an organised leisure walk.
The incremental development of the Great Southern Trail in West Limerick has been carried out with funding from various statutory bodies, as part of a licensing agreement with CIE. The old railway line, which had its last scheduled passenger train in 1963, retains a public right-of-way.
The CIE spokesperson said that it is “very keen” for the trail to be extended into Kerry under the existing terms in force in Limerick. “We aren’t using the line and aren’t likely to again for the foreseeable future”.
However, the spokesperson said that it is important that the line remains in public ownership as it remains part of the national infrastructure grid, and is home to underground fibre optic cabling.
The stand-off between farmers and walkers on the border drew national media attention. Abbeyfeale-based Fine Gael councillor, Liam Galvin, urged all parties involved to engage in dialogue and seek a compromise solution.
“What happened the last day shouldn’t have happened. That’s not going to solve anything. I think all parties need to sit down and discuss the issues, so that they could all come to a proper agreement.
“There are a lot of farmers back there, and in fairness to them some of them do have genuine concerns. Dairy farmers need to bring their cattle in twice a day, and some of them have to cross that line to get there”.
Cllr Francis Foley said that the success of the Great Southern Trail in Limerick should reassure Kerry farmers that the development is nothing to fear.
“Negotiation and dialogue is the way forward. The trail is an ideal way to promote local tourism, and I would hope that the people on the Kerry side can embrace this going forward.”