Who We Are

Our focus is Ireland’s mountains and the people who live, work and recreate in them

Protecting True Beauty

Our mountains have been with us for millions of years. We believe that everyone has a role in making sure that they are managed sustainably. So whether you can give use some of your time, or a donation IUF will be grateful.

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Securing Irish Upland's Future

Upland biodiversity is unique as it features plants and animals which can tolerate exposure to wind, cold and lots of rain. Farming over thousands of years has played a significant role in shaping this biodiversity.

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Upland Communities

Rural development challenges are greater in upland areas due to isolation, limited emploment opportunities and threats to traditional farming enterprises.

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About Us

The Irish Uplands Forum [IUF] was founded in 1995 after a conference in Galway seeking a partnership towards managing Ireland’s uplands. The purpose of the Forum was, and remains, to improve mutual understanding among users of the uplands, from farmers to recreationalists to commercial users to state bodies.

Our main focus is the bring together all established partnerships around the country, and create new partnerships in areas where they are needed. The IUF and all its partners are didicated to the sustainable development of Ireland’s uplands for the communities who live, work and recreate in them.

Irish Uplands

Our Beginings

Under the leadership of Prof Adrian Phillips of Trinity College Dublin it flourished for a few years, but became quiescent through lack of funding. It came to life again after the Mountaineering Council of Ireland’s Sligo Conference The Creation of Partnership in Ireland’s Upland Regions in 2002, and has been active ever since.

We define the uplands as all land above 300m, plus those areas, such as the Burren and other areas along the western seaboard where upland conditions descend to sea level.

In 2008 the Forum became a Limited Company, governed by a Board of Directors who are elected at the AGM which is held in Spring each year. To view our board member details click here.

Directors

Let us introduce you to the board of the Irish Uplands Forum:
Frank Nugent
Chairman

Frank Nugent is a Mountaineer, explorer and author. He was Chairman of the Mountaineering Council of Ireland (1997–2000), Deputy Leader of the first successful Irish Everest Expedition (1993). He has followed in the footsteps of Shackleton across South Georgia (1997), and sailed the Northwest Passage in Northabout, a shallow-draft boat in 2001.

Frank has had a lifelong interest in the sustainable management of the Irish Uplands and was one of the organisers of a conference in 1996 in Galway called: Towards the Sustainable Management of the Irish Uplands. Arising out of this conference the Irish Uplands Forum non-governmental organisation was established. Frank was its first Chairman a role he was elected to in 2009.

Frank Bergin
Vice-Chairman – Leinster partnership liaison

Frank Bergin’s earliest passion was for hurling and he has been involved with GAA at all levels from juvenile and minor playing (winning a juvenile All Ireland hurling title) to management, training and club executive level as secretary of the Kinnitty GAA for ten years. As a manager, Frank achieved success with Offaly winning the National Hurling League.

He later became involved with the Slieve Bloom Rural Development Society with the aim of promoting the area and he is now into his sixth year as chairperson. In his work with the Society, Frank became aware of the natural beauty of the area and the vast culture and heritage it possesses. The Slieve Bloom Mountains are 350 million years old and are pretty much unchanged geologically and Frank wants to keep it that way whilst developing walking trails that have a minimum impact.

As a local walking leader and storyteller, he organises a story telling festival every October, which attracts people from across the country and beyond.

“As a group we have lots of plans to enhance recreational facilities within the area by working with landowners who facilitate us where necessary. There are many challenges to overcome in our work on upland projects (especially funding).

Tom Byrne
Treasurer

Tom first became an IFA representative on Wicklow Uplands Council (WUC) and when the Irish Uplands Forum needed a farmer on their committee, Tom was sent forward from the WUC. He is also Vice-Chair of Wicklow Executive IFA, Vice Chair of Wicklow uplands council, Commissioner on Sustainable Agricultural Commission in Euro Parks, Germany.

I am involved because I believe the people in the uplands, be they farmers or simply residents, are very poorly represented. I could see that the WUC and the IUF have a lot to offer and that my influence and experience could shape the future for these people, for the better, through the IUF.

“People in the Irish Uplands Forum are very open-minded and influential and can see where change is needed to achieve a sustainable future for our uplands.”

Deirdre Lewis
Company Secretary

Deirdre Lewis is a professional geologist, working in environmental consultancy. She is passionate about the need to actively manage and conserve our uplands and to support the communities who live there. Deirdre advises communities, state agencies and Leader companies countrywide on sustainable resource management, outdoor recreational development and community engagement.

She was the principal author of the national Pilot Study for Mountain Access Scheme in the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, and has worked on feasibility studies for recreational development in the Galtees, Knockmealdowns, Cooleys, Nephins and other upland areas of Ireland.

Mary Tubridy
Director - Head of Research

Environmental/Ecological consultant with a particular interest in community based initiatives to support sustainable development. Over a research/consultancy career spanning four decades, Mary has been involved in projects concerned with tourism, forestry, farming and spatial planning in the uplands.

She was project director of the Wicklow Uplands Study in the 90’s a multi disciplinary study which produced a blueprint for sustainable development in the Wicklow Uplands which was based on a comprehensive analysis of its resources and widespread community consultation. Mary cares about the uplands because of their great ecological interest and because the people who live, work and recreate in them are exceptional.

Helena Fitzgerald
Director and Chair of Agri-environment Sub-group

Helena is a registered architect whose rural practice focuses on sustainability in its broadest sense. Helena is based in the foothills of the Blackstairs Mountains on the Carlow, Wexford border. Observation and study of the local dry stonewall landscapes led to an interest in High Nature Value (HNV) farming. In 2014 Helena formed the Blackstairs Farming for Conservation Group (now the Blackstairs Farming Group) and was its inaugural chair. In 2015 while engaged as a consultant by the European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism, she managed the development of a locally-led agri-environment project in the Blackstairs uplands. Most recently she coordinated the Blackstairs Farming Group’s application for European Innovation Partnership (EIP) funding for a Results Based Agri-environment Payment Scheme (RBAPs) under Ireland’s Rural Development Programme.

With family connections in the Slieve Mish mountains, Helena has seen the changes in upland farming and communities over the course of her lifetime and advocates for an integrated and locally-led approach towards sustainable upland communities throughout Ireland.

Patrick O'Shea
Director - Munster Partnership Liaison

Based in Aughacasla Castlegregory County Kerry. Patrick O’Shea farms on the uplands in the Dingle peninsula – a place that is often cited as being among the most beautiful places on Earth .

Patrick’s family was farming on this upland in 1812 and how long before that he is not sure but his family has been there ever since. So it is no wonder that he developed a passion and love for the hills whilst growing up in such a place.

Patrick is also a big supporter of the GAA and has held many positions in his club including chairman and secretary. He is a prominent member of IFA, and as county officer, he represents his county at national level and is currently completing a four year term in National Council (the governing body of the association).

Patrick fears for the future of farming on uplands; “The return is so small that there is no longer a living to be made from the Irish Uplands. This is evident when we look at the average age of hill farmers. It is unthinkable to accept that we are heading towards the day that upland farming could be a thing of the past.”

Sean Byrne
Director - Wicklow Uplands Council, Irish Uplands Forum

Born and living in Carrigeenduff, Roundwood Co. Wicklow, the family are resident and farming here from the early 1700’s, working an 80-acre hill sheep farm and extensive mountain commonage.
He currently operates a successful guest house specialising in walking and angling holidays, and photographic workshops on Wicklow’s many lakes. Attracting clients from UK mainland, Europe, Canada, United States, Australia, New Zealand and many other areas, the scaled down farm enterprise is now an integral part of this business and he believes some diversification is the way to keep families and communities in the uplands without reliance on subsidies to maintain a presence in these areas.

Sean is a founding Member of the Irish Uplands Forum and the very successful Wicklow Uplands Council, has been a board member from the first executive and is current Chairman,

Sean has faith in such organisations to influence policy and bring about an environment that will shape a satisfactory template for a sustainable future.

Ross Millar
Director - Ulster Upland Partnership Liaison

Ross Millar is a Town Planner who has specialised in rural issues throughout his career, particularly the management, protection and sustainable use of uplands. He spent a large part of his career involved in the management of the Mournes and the Causeway Coast areas in particular and was the lead person in establishing the Mourne Heritage Trust and Northern Ireland’s Outdoor Recreation Network (ORNI) amongst others. He is a former Chair of Mountaineering Ireland and the Mountain Training Board for Northern Ireland.

“Our uplands are not only important environmentally but also as places where you can commune with nature and provoke your sense of wonder.”

Georgia MacMillan
Director - Membership Secretary

Based in Newport, County Mayo, Georgia is involved in several community projects including research for a Locally Led Agri-environmental scheme for the Nephin Beg Uplands Farming Group. She was researcher and project manager of Mayo Dark Sky Park and continues to work on this community project to raise awareness of light pollution in Mayo.

Georgia graduated from GMIT Mayo with a BA (Hons) in Outdoor Education and also Mountain Leader Award. She is a regular hill walker and representative for Mountaineering Ireland on the Irish Uplands Forum.

As a frequent visitor to the Uplands, Georgia is keen to see these precious resources protected in harmony with the continued stewardship of the people who live and work in them.

The Only Way To Make This Happen Is To Take Action!

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