Fencing off the Mountain Road

 

Sheep on Mountain Road

Concerns have been raised that farmers with sheep grazing along the Mountain Road, between Carndonagh and Buncrana, may become liable for insurance claims following the erection of fencing on commonage adjacent to the busy route. The roadside fencing, carried out over the past 18 months in the townland of Craignahorna, has split an area of commonage and prevents animals from crossing the road to graze on the other side. Making changes to commonage can only be carried out with the agreement of all owners who have shares in it; however, the Inishowen Independent understands that no such agreement has been reached in this instance. The erection of such barriers may leave farmers liable for damages should a vehicle hit one of their animals or indeed the fence. In general, farmers have a duty to ensure their animals do not stray onto the public road. Farmers whose animals stray from fenced fields have had claims successfully taken against them, with a knock on effect on their insurance premiums. However, under the provisions of the 1985 Animals Act, the same duty of care does not apply in areas where fencing is not customary, such as commonage. In effect, the animals grazing on commonage have the right of way and car owners cannot claim for damage caused to their vehicle, or indeed for any personal injuries, should an animal be struck. The concern now is that the erection of fencing on commonage in the townland of Craignahorna (Glassalts) will nullify this protection for farmers and open the way for insurance claims where collisions occur. The fences have prevented sheep from crossing the road to the ground where they have a right graze, and has caused them to wander on the road for longer periods than normal as they look to find a way around. Concern has also been expressed about what impact these fences may have on so-called turbary rights, i.e. the right to cut turf, including access to the turf banks. Areas of commonage along the Mountain Road date back to 1879 when the estate of landlord Edward Harvey, encompassing several thousand acres, was sold under the first of the great Land Acts introduced by the governments of William Gladstone. Commonage was granted to local farmers back then, and turbary rights were also assigned at that time. The right to use the commonage, or cut turf, has been passed down through generations of families since the late 19th century.