On average, 120 people per year die from drowning in Ireland.
And after a year of swimming pools, swim classes and school swimming being closed, Water Safety Ireland has said that there are “a lot of children” who now need to learn to swim.
Speaking at the 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, WSI said they plan to launch sea swimming classes aimed at kids across the country this year.
Speaking at the launch earlier this week, Minister for Rural & Community Development Heather Humphreys said that, although the number of drownings has been falling in recent years, reaching children as part of this campaign is vital to reduce the number of young people who die by drowning. And swimming lessons, she explained, are a vital part of this education.
Water Safety Ireland CEO John Leech explained that WSI 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.”
He also emphasised the importance of keeping a close watch on children while at the beach, pointing out that lifeguards helped to locate about 250 children who had wandered off while at the Irish seaside last year.
Also at the launch was Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, who agreed that it is of utmost importance that children learn to swim properly, especially considering that people will be holidaying in Ireland again this summer, and that will mean large numbers at swimming spots.
The fact that swimming pools have been closed for a year now, limiting children’s access to swimming lessons is a problem, the minister admits.
“Most children learn to swim in swimming pools, not at the sea,” said Coveney.
“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.”