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MEP Grace O'Sullivan paddle-boarding on the River Lee.
grace o'sullivan

Irish MEP calls for every riverside town to get its own lido by the end of the decade

‘I would love to see Ireland recognising that we have these jewels available to us and that we invest in them,’ said O’Sullivan.

AN IRISH MEP has called for every riverside town to get its own ‘lido’ style bathing site by the end of the decade.

In light of the recent spell of hot weather, Green Party MEP Grace O’Sullivan said she wanted to highlight the opportunities for making river towns more attractive places by creating “simple and safe outdoor swimming areas”.

On Wednesday, O’Sullivan took to the water of the River Lee in Co Cork as part of a campaign to open up access to Irish rivers with new infrastructure and facilities.

Speaking to The Journal, O’Sullivan said: “Lockdown showed us that people were looking for ways of recreation and there was this kind of explosion of people taking to the seashores and the rivers around our island, trying to find spots within their local areas that they could access.

“And that has continued, that explosion of numbers of people taking to the seas and the pools and the rivers.”


IMG_2820 MEP Grace O'Sullivan calling for a 'Lido of Cork' from the River Lee.

O’Sullivan said she met with Niall Kenny of the Cork Lido Project, whose goal is to create an open air 50-metre pool in Cork.

“Speaking to Niall enthused me,” said O’Sullivan, “because I had been watching this kind of phenomena of the amount of people taking to the water, as a sea swimmer myself and as someone who teaches surfing to youngsters.  

“I spend a lot of time around bathing areas so I was delighted to see the campaign that Niall was running and when I sat with him it was really fantastic.

“He’s gone about this in a really constructive and systematic way, getting the community and the council and Swim Ireland around him.

“But my point is that this is something we should look at across Ireland, to have the facilities for people to learn to swim.”

O’Sullivan described swimming as “quite extraordinary” and added: “It’s so good for mental health, for the body, it’s good for people of all ages and people with disabilities, it doesn’t matter what your creed, race, colour, or anything else is.

“If you have good public facilities that are affordable and that people can have access to, it’s really a win-win for everyone.”

O’Sullivan noted that “every single Irish city is built on a river, yet in most places we take a very ‘look but don’t touch’ approach”.

The MEP said: “Ireland is an incredible island nation, our graphical position is superb in terms of it’s never too hot, or too cold, it’s like the three bears.

“But too often in the past, our rivers almost became sewers. For that reason, in many cases we turned our backs on our rivers and our lakes.

“In these places, if the quality is good, these natural amenities can be not only fantastic for people and their recreation and mental health but also for biodiversity and enhancing biodiversity, which is in decline in many species.

“With modern technology and with funding mechanisms from the EU in terms of rural development funding, there are loads of potential benefits there.”

O’Sullivan said the EU Regional Development Funding has a provision for “revitalising areas for recreation” and added that this could be “an excellent source of revenue for towns and cities across Ireland to bring life to the riverbanks”.

“I would love to see Ireland recognising that we have these jewels available to us and that we invest in them,” said O’Sullivan.

“If the design is done with that accessibility at the top of the agenda, then I think we certainly would be in a good position to try to draw down funding.”

O’Sullivan has called for “simple and safe outdoor swimming areas” and speaking to The Journal, she explained: “When I say simple, I mean good eco design and not all the trimmings.

“A good eco design that acknowledges the environment around it.

“The pool itself is the most important thing and then the decking area around it so people can lie out on deck chairs.”

She added that the public amenity she seeks would also be “supported with lifeguards and all of the safety mechanisms”.

“But I would hope that one of the barriers wouldn’t be the cost of insurance,” cautions O’Sullivan.

“Part of the plan would be good insurance policies but not one that would break the concept and the development of the plans.”

O’Sullivan described Ireland as a “water paradise” and said swimming can be the “pathway to so many other water sports”, such as kite-surfing.

However, she warned: “We must be thinking not only of those who are fit and able and capable of doing some of these water sports, but we must think all the time of people of different ages, particularly people with disabilities.

“We have to make sure that the facility and design allows people in wheelchairs and with mobility issues so that they have equal access, the same as any other person.

“They’re absolutely entitled to equality and God knows we have a job of work to do to make sure that we have a level playing field for people of all abilities in this country.”

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