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Surfers at Lahinch beach. Shutterstock/mark_gusev

Increased lifeguard services for Co Clare after busy weekend sees volunteers performing rescues

Lifeguards were not on duty last weekend at the busy Lahinch beach and there have been calls to have them working full time for the rest of June.

LOCAL SURFERS HAVE been performing rescues over the last few weeks due to a lack of lifeguards at Lahinch beach in County Clare.

Ollie O’Flaherty, a surf coach with Lahinch Surf Experience, said that it has been mainly local surf instructors and off-duty lifeguards that have been performing these rescues.

O’Flaherty and other local surfers and lifeguards have an off-season lifeguard group called Lahinch Surf Rescue, who have been performing these recuses over the weekends.

“We performed maybe upwards of 50 rescues in one weekend,” said O’Flaherty. “Some of those people [on Sunday] would more than likely have drowned.”

“This has gone on since the restrictions lifted at the start of the month.”

Since O’Flaherty and others spoke out about the situation, Clare County Council has confirmed that it will increase lifeguard service for the remainder of June.

O’Flaherty said that while Lahinch is a safe beach if people have the right knowledge and guidance, if they don’t then it can be dangerous.

“One of the guys yesterday, on his day off, spent four hours sitting on his board in a rip current, just guiding, and doing the job of lifeguards. And his family are waiting on the prom for him all day.”

He said that rips and currents changing is a real danger. One of the men O’Flaherty rescued over the weekend said that if the flags had been up and he had known where to swim, he would have never gotten in danger.

“There seems to be no kind of forward thinking from the councils [...] they knew that people are going to come in their thousands to Lahinch.”

Lifeguarding services at Lahinch beach and other beaches in Clare will be on duty during the weekends of this month, starting with this Bank Holiday Weekend.

However, O’Flaherty feels that’s not enough and lifeguards need to be on duty all days of the week.

“Today’s Monday. And already the main car park is 70% full.”

“I think it’s up to the county council to actually provide the services for those people that are coming. And currently, they’re not.”

Yesterday, Ben Bennett of Ben’s Surf Clinic in Lahinch said on Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio 1 that he would like to see lifeguards on duty at the weekends in May and full time from June to September.

In Facebook posts, O’Flaherty and other local surf instructors warned that if no action was taken by the council then lives would be lost.

O’Flaherty said that this is not just an issue for Lahinch, but also other beaches in Clare, including Kilkee, Fanore and Spanish Point.

O’Flaherty also said that litter is another huge issue at the Lahinch area.

Clare County Council have said that “beach lifeguard services are due to commence in County Clare next weekend (for weekends in June, with a full-time service starting from Monday, 28th June).

“However, in light of the level of activity at beach locations in County Clare this weekend, Clare County Council intends to increase the lifeguard services, particularly at busier beaches, from next weekend where lifeguards are available for weekdays also.”

John Leech, CEO of Water Safety Ireland, said that many beaches and local authorities are increasing lifeguard duties across the country due to the change of uses of the beaches because of the pandemic.

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