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'A lot of children' need to learn to swim following closure of swimming pools for a year

Water Safety Ireland said however that it will be running classes at 200 beaches this summer.

The Forty Foot in Dublin. (File photo)
The Forty Foot in Dublin. (File photo)
Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

WATER SAFETY IRELAND (WSI) has said there are “a lot of children” who need to learn to swim as it confirmed that sea swimming classes will take place this summer but in a “different “way

WSI was part of today’s launch of the government’s Be Summer Ready campaign, which aims to educate people about the dangers associated with outdoor pursuits during the summer months. 

Water safety is an important part of the campaign but it also includes areas such as farming and road safety. 

At a launch of the campaign this morning, Minister for Rural & Community Development Heather Humphreys said that, although the number of drownings has been falling in recent years, there are still an average of 120 per year in this country. 

She said that reaching children as part of the campaign is vital to reduce the number of young people who die by drowning and she said that swimming lessons are a key part of this. 

“I know many many children over the years have benefited from the water safety instruction that they’ve got from organisations such as Water Safety Ireland and I can include my own children in that,” she said. 

It’s important that we try and reach out to as many young people as we can, because whether you’re in the lake, or the river, or in the sea there are different dangers.

CEO of Water Safety Ireland John Leech said the body will be running sea swimming classes at some 200 venues this summer, with efforts being made to increase that number.

“We want everybody to learn to swim, there are a lot of children at the moment who need to learn to swim,” he said.

Our classes will go ahead this year, albeit significantly differently than previous years. Some years we might have 600 people on the beach, teaching them swimming in open water, which is far more important than teaching swimming in the swimming pool because it’s very rare for somebody to drown in a swimming pool. 

“Normally, you would hold it on one week where you would have 400-600 children on the big beaches and maybe only around 100 on the small or more remote beaches.

“This year, we’ll have to break that down to adhere to the guidelines and government legislation, so it is obviously going to be challenging for us.”

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Leech also emphasised the importance of keeping a close watch on children while at the beach, saying that lifeguards helped to locate about 250 children who had wandered off while at the seaside last year.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney emphasised the importance of people learning how to swim, noting that almost half of the population of Ireland lives within 5km of the sea and “practically everyone” lives within 20km of the sea, a lake or river.

Coveney said that people holidaying in Ireland will mean large numbers at swimming spots and he acklowdlged that public swimming pools being closed for the last year will mean some children will not have been able to take lessons.

“Most children learn to swim in swimming pools, not at the sea. They go to swim in the sea afterwards but they learn to swim at swimming lessons in pools, pools that by large have been closed for most of the year, which of course is a setback. We need to overcompensate for that, to make sure that those kids catch up,” he said.

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Rónán Duffy

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