National Trust in 'misleading' Giants Causeway signs row to charge visitors
The National Trust has been slammed for erecting "misleading" signs at the Giant's Causeway in order to charge visitors to the attraction.
The signs, which first appeared on a public pathway to the Unesco World Heritage Site in early 2017, inform users of the path along the iconic coastline that they are accessing the route "with the permission of the National Trust".
But the signs have sparked anger among local residents, walking groups and independent Glens councillor Padraig McShane.
Mr McShane is now calling for Causeway Coast and Glens Council to intervene and remove the signs.
He has proposed a motion, which was seconded by Sinn Fein councillor Cara McShane, which will be debated by the council tonight.
Mr McShane told the Belfast Telegraph: "These signs claim that the path belongs to the National Trust but that is not, and never has been, the case.
"They seem to be taking ownership of what is a public walkway and I am asking the council to fulfil their statutory obligation and remove the signs."
Mr McShane has accused the National Trust of "trying to force people into forking out money" which they don't have to pay to walk along the path. "There is no question that the public have a right to access this path, but for some reason the National Trust has a different opinion and they have gone above and beyond the rights of residents," he said.
"I am now calling on the council to act and remove all ambiguity about who owns this land - it must be made clear.
"Even if this motion fails the council has an obligation to act because this problem has been lingering for a long time."
The motion will be debated at the council's Leisure and Development Committee meeting tonight.
A spokesperson for the National Trust last night responded to Mr McShane's concerns.
"As a conservation charity, the National Trust is committed to providing enjoyable, safe and well managed access to the Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland's only Unesco World Heritage Site," the spokesperson said.
"We currently and will continue to work with Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council in relation to public rights of way at the Giant's Causeway.
"This world-famous site is enjoyed by over one million local and international visitors every year.
"However, in addition to welcoming visitors, we also have the responsibility to conserve and protect the site, so it can be enjoyed forever by everyone."