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New research on potentially harmful bacteria in Ireland’s seas, lakes and rivers highlights the need to revise current EU bathing water quality monitoring criteria, NUI Galway (NUIG) researchers have said.

Analyses of 111 samples taken from 50 locations in Galway city and county, Cork city and county and Fingal, Dublin, between 2016 and 2019 detected a pathogenic form of E. coli .

This form of E. coli called Shiga-toxigenic E.coli (STEC) can lead to potentially life-threatening infection in about 10% of cases, the researchers state.

As Afloat reported earlier, the bacteria was detected in 57% of 84 sea waters where samples were collected – all of which are deemed of “good” or “excellent” quality, based on current EU bathing water monitoring criteria.

STEC was also detected in 78% of the 27 lake and river samples tested.

Shiga-toxigenic E.coli (STEC) is carried naturally by cattle and sheep.

The NUIG Antimicrobial Resistance and Microbial Ecology (ARME) research team says that a microscopic quantity has the potential to do serious harm to humans.

It warns that ingestion could cause serious illness including bloody diarrhoea while about 30% of STEC cases require hospitalisation and about 10% develop haemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially fatal complication that causes renal failure.

Ireland has the highest rate in Europe, the team states. Figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre record that in 2016 Ireland reported 16.6 cases of STEC per 100,000.

This is higher than the next worst offenders - Switzerland (8.2/100,000 population) and Norway (7.3/100,000 population) respectively- they point out.

“These findings highlight the need to consider revision of current EU bathing water quality monitoring criteria to consider characteristics of the organisms present,”Prof Dearbháile Morris of ARME says.

Her team is asking people to take the survey. It aims to “build a picture of what is stopping people from fully utilising our seas, lakes and rivers, and to help identify problem areas”.

The survey is part of the four year PIER project (Public Health Impact of Exposure to antibiotic Resistance in recreational waters), funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The researchers are asking the public to take the survey to help identify the barriers and enablers for people’s interaction with blue spaces - our beaches, seas, lakes and rivers.

“The most recent bathing water quality data reports that 96% of our identified natural bathing waters meets the minimum required standard,” Prof Morris, who is principal investigator on the PIER project,says.

“However, our research has revealed the presence of organisms of public health concern in waters designated as of excellent quality in some cases,” she points out.

NUI Galway researchers will use the findings from the PIER project to create a systems map to identify problem areas, identify and prioritise collaborative change strategies and explore stakeholder engagement opportunities.

“No matter how much or little you engage with our waters, your contribution will help co-design strategies to maintain and protect our waters for future generations,” Dr Sinead Duane, postdoctoral researcher with the project, says.

For more information and to take part in the survey visit

Published in Sea Swim
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Dun Laoghaire Harbour sailor Guy O'Leary is repeating last year's swim for charity endeavour this morning when he swims a mile each day during the month of May to raise funds for Cancer charities.

Like last year, he will be joined each day during the month by supporters that will complete the mile challenge.

In all, 70 swimmers from around the world will swim the mile and support the fundraising effort. Last year O'Leary raised €85,000 for cancer research.

As regular Afloat readers will know, O'Leary himself survived the disease after a year of treatment himself as he describes here.

The scene last year when Guy O'Leary was congratulated by friend and supports after completing his swim at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire Harbour   The scene last year when Guy O'Leary (centre) was congratulated by friends and supporters after completing his month of May swim at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire Harbour  

Guy's fundraising page is now live at you can choose to donate to Cancer Research UK or The Irish Cancer Society.

The website also has a link at the bottom of the page to Instagram if you would like to follow the day-to-day progress of the challenge!

Published in Sea Swim
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The environmental action group, SOS Dublin Bay, has today launched a detailed policy document entitled - “The water quality crisis in Dublin Bay - what is happening and actions needed to protect the public”.

Download the full documents and survey below.

The Group is calling for urgent steps to better inform the general public of the extent of the problem which it describes as serious and a more significant risk to swimmers than previously thought. It is also calling for urgent action by the government and Irish Water to clean up the Bay, which was declared a UNESCO Biosphere reserve in 2015 in recognition of its unique ecological and cultural status. 

The Group has conducted extensive research into data provided by Irish Water and the four local authorities in Dublin which reveals that in the 4 year period 2017 to 2020, a total of 8.875 million cubic metres [1] of untreated sewage and storm waters has been discharged into Dublin Bay from overflow tanks located at the Ringsend Wastewater Treatment Plant. This figure does not include other significant discharges from the 410 Storm Water Overflows in the Dublin region which are not measured but are thought to exceed the discharges from the plant. 

This equates to 3,550 full-size Olympic 50 metre pools over the four year period and averages out at 74 Olympic pools full of untreated wastewater each month. These discharges of untreated sewer wastewater usually occur during storm periods where the current Dublin Wastewater Treatment Facility (DWwTF) reaches maximum capacity and cannot cope with the loadings being received.

The scene at Sandycove Harbour in the South of Dublin Bay where sea swimming in the harbour and nearby Foot Foot is a year round pursuit Photo: AfloatThe scene at Sandycove Harbour in the South of Dublin Bay where sea swimming in the harbour and nearby Foot Foot is a year round pursuit Photo: Afloat

In an online survey of over 1200 people conducted in March, more than one in 5 (21.77%) declared that they had been ill or suffered adverse health effects as a result of recreational activity they had recently undertaken in Dublin Bay.

Chairman of SOS Dublin Bay Gerard Jones said the Group were taken aback by how much wastewater is being illegally dumped into Dublin Bay – “Our research has revealed clear evidence of a significant ecological problem of which the public is unaware which is clearly having a negative impact on the health of bathers in particular. We have seen a major increase in year-round bathing in the Bay. People need to be informed about bathing conditions and periods of poor water quality. Dublin Bay is our city’s most treasured public amenity, but it is heavily polluted and causing illness. There a duty of care to protect public health and that obligation is not being met .”

SOS Dublin Bay is calling for a series of short and medium-term actions to be implemented

Short Term Measures Proposed

Systematic year-round survey of Dublin Bay bathing waters incorporating daily sampling and testing over a 24 month period - 365 days a year at 10 separate locations around the Bay. This should commence immediately, continue and conclude in May 2023. Information gained will inform the users of Dublin Bay when it is safe to use the bay for activities such as swimming, kayaking, etc.

The information to be disseminated to the public via real time electronic signage at established bathing locations and through information channels such as local authority information websites and social media channels.

The data to be used or planning and ensure investment in infrastructure is properly targeted at the root causes of the pollution of Dublin Bay.

The Dublin Waste Water Treatment Facility Plant in Ringsend has an Ultra Violet (UV) treatment facility which reduces the microbiological load of effluent from the Plant to Dublin Bay. This UV plant operates only during the Bathing Season (1 June - 15 September) each year. This plant should operate continuously throughout the year. This will result in an immediate improvement of the bathing water quality..

Medium and Longer Term Measures Proposed

More investment is immediately needed in the water infrastructure for the Greater Dublin Region. This will protect public health, achieve compliance with EU Directives meet the duty of care obligation of the State and ensure that Dublin Bay can retain its status as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

These measures are :

Expediting the delivery of the new Clonshaugh wastewater treatment plant; this facility is urgently needed. Its future is in question following a decision of the High Court in 2020. The judicial review process is leading to a breakdown in the development of critical public infrastructure investment.

Accelerating the current upgrade at the Ringsend plant. This is due for completion by 2025; we believe the deadline is optimistic and unlikely to be achieved. Current contracts with the existing contractors for the Ringsend Plant upgrade, should be reviewed to determine how delivery can be brought forward.

Implement real-time testing using next-generation buoy based sensors which can test many times each day and transmit results via 5G telecommunications networks.

"There is a crisis in Dublin Bay which has led to the permanent closing of the Merrion beach as a bathing facility. Unless action is taken the bathing water is going to deteriorate further and could lead to more permanent closures of other Dublin beaches and popular bathing areas around the Bay; this is now a major public health issue and requires immediate action by Local Authorities, the Department of the Environment and the EPA" concluded Mr Jones.

Published in Dublin Bay

Instead of Christmas swims, Howth RNLI fundraisers in County Dublin are asking Howth peninsula swimmers to "DIP & DONATE" to the RNLI anytime between December 19th and Jan 7th.

Howth RNLI has posters with a printed QR code (see above) for scanning by camera phone to take swimmers directly to the RNLI Justgiving page, Howth RNLI's Rose Michael told Afloat.

Mass Christmas sea swims, often held in aid of charities, such as the RNLI, have been discouraged this year due to pandemic measures to kerb social gatherings.

Howth Lifeboat Station continues to rely on voluntary contributions and legacies for income. It is only through thoughtful gifts and donations that the RNLI is able to provide our volunteer lifeboat crews with the boats, facilities, equipment and training that are essential to save lives at sea.

Since 1825 an all-weather lifeboat has launched into Dublin Bay from Howth and the crews have been honoured with 20 awards for gallantry.

Today the station operates both a Trent class lifeboat and an inshore D class lifeboat.

Published in Sea Swim
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A “giant-size” towel collage has been spread out at Blackrock’s Seapoint shoreline in Dublin Bay on Saturday to highlight the need for action over Dublin Bay water quality.

Open water swimmers suspended hostilities over whether dry robes or towels were more socially acceptable to participate in the peaceful initiative - at a social distance.

SOS Dublin Bay, which organised the gesture, is calling for increased testing of bathing water quality.

It is seeking real-time reporting of results “in recognition of all-year-round bathing which has become more common in Dublin”.

SOS Dublin Bay chairman Gerry Jones said record numbers of people were now swimming in the bay all year round.

He said that “local authorities need to recognise this reality by ensuring that bathing water quality readings are provided on an ongoing basis to the general public”.

He said there should be regular publication of all appropriate public health guidance particularly when the water is polluted.

“Thousands of people are now taking to the waters in Dublin Bay every day, yet we are simultaneously witnessing the appalling spectacle of raw sewage being dumped into the bay at Ringsend after heavy periods of rainfall,” he said.

A scene at the Forty Foot bathing place during Winter 2020A scene at the Forty Foot bathing place at the southern tip of Dublin Bay during Winter 2020

“We can’t put people’s health on hold while we wait for a promised upgrade of the Ringsend sewage treatment plant which won’t happen till at least 2025,” he said.

There are “ creative interim solutions” at to prevent Irish Water dumping sewage into the Liffey estuary and onward into the bay, he said, and SOS Dublin Bay aims to publish several proposals in the new year.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has acknowledged the risks to water quality after periods of heavy rainfall which result in overflow from storm drains and from the Ringsend sewage treatment plant, among other sources.

Rainwater run off at Sandycove Point on Dublin Bay from Afloat Magazine on Vimeo.

However, it says it is awaiting a review of the EU Bathing Water Quality directive before recommending any legislative changes to allow for greater frequency of , and more detailed scope of, testing here.

Under current regulations, local authorities are only required to test bathing water quality once a month between May and September. Some local authorities test more frequently, but results are slow.

The tests under the EU bathing water quality directive are limited to E.coli (EC) and Intestinal enterococci (IE), based on World Health Organisation research.

Dublin Bay Swimmers Call Truce in Dry Robe Wars in Support of a Cleaner Dublin BayDublin Bay swimmers call a truce in Dry Robe wars and lay out their towels in support of a cleaner Dublin Bay  - 18611 is the current number of signatures to the online petition for a cleaner bay Photo: One minute forty

University College Dublin (UCD) microbiologist Prof Wim Meijer explains that most E.coli are harmless.

However, VeroToxigenic E coli strains, contracted from ingesting water contaminated with animal faeces or from undercooked meat or contaminated salads, produce a powerful toxin which can cause “a range of symptoms, from bloody diarrhoea to kidney failure and may cause fatalities”

Prof Dearbháile Morris, director of NUI Galway (NUIG) Ryan Institute’s Centre for One Health, said current testing systems are outdated, as they only look for the total number of e-coli in a 100ml sample and not the detail.

A system for live bathing water monitoring named EU SWIM is at an advance stage, co-ordinated by UCD computer scientist Prof Gregory O’Hare and involving Prof Meijer.

The SOS petition is here

Published in Dublin Bay

A swimmer has died after getting into difficulty as Hawk Cliff in Dalkey in Killney Bay yesterday.

The accident happened after the Irish Coast Guard based in Dun Laoghaire Harbour received a call about a swimmer in difficulty.  

Emergency services including the National Ambulance Service, Dublin Fire Brigade, a HSE doctor and local gardai attended at the scene. 

After locating the casualty in the water, they were brought from the water to nearby Coliemore Harbour for urgent medical treatment but sadly passed away.

The Irish Coast Guard said: "Irish Coast Guard - Dun Laoghaire were tasked to a report of a swimmer in difficulty at Hawks Cliff bathing area, with RNLI Dun Laoghaire

Lifeboat Station ILB, National Ambulance Service (NAS), Dublin Fire Brigade, a HSE Doctor and local Gardaí also responding.

Published in Sea Swim

The alarm was raised shortly after 8 am this morning at Sandycove on Dublin Bay when a male was found unresponsive in the water at the Forty Foot Bathing Place.

Coast Guard, Ambulance Service & Gardaí are at the scene and the Garda has a cordon in place at the popular sea swim spot.

A Garda spokesman told Afloat 'No further details are currently available'.

Published in Forty Foot Swimming

There are many variations to the sport of swimming. But, long-distance swimming is on another level, and what Donegal man Henry O'Donnell is attempting at the moment he calls an Expedition. He will try to swim around the Island of Ireland to become the first person in history to circumnavigate a country by Finswimming and in doing so will help to raise funds for two National Charities, Water Safety Ireland and the Irish Cancer Society.

Finswim2020-21 is one of the most inspiring, unique, and challenging marine projects ever attempted in Irish coastal waters. Expedition Leader O'Donnell began his challenge, which he thought may take a year, from Carrickfin in the Donegal Gaeltacht, and is the creator of this pioneering project. He had thought of the idea of the circumnavigation in 1990 when he was recovering from a life-threatening sports accident (which left him paralysed for some time), and in 1992 he went on to complete several challenging land-based expeditions and sea swims to raise funds for charities and other worthy causes.

Tor Dearg is the Finswim 2020-21 support boat Round IrelandTor Dearg is the Finswim 2020-21 support boat Round Ireland

He loves sport in general, healthy living and has a close affinity with the sea and nature. He completed demanding expeditions around the world in recent years including lowest to highest points on four continents; Africa, Europe, America and Australia – he is confident that finswim2020-21 will be equal or more challenging than many expeditions and adventures previously were undertaken.

The event was scheduled to start in June 2021. Still, due to the COVID crisis, work situation and other factors, it was necessary to reorganise, and Henry decided to bring the Expedition forward to 2020. So, on 17th September the 56-year-old walked into the sea at Carrickfin beach in the hope of becoming the first person to accomplish such a challenge. Fin-swimming, as the name suggests, involves the use of fins on the water surface, with a snorkel and mask. O'Donnell also wears a custom-made triathlon suit to combat icy temperatures.

Henry has many strings to his bow – a qualified beach guard, specialist diver, swimming teacher and ex Irish Army Special Forces – and then there's his day job – an aviation security advisor. And many achievements too – the first Irishman to swim the 14km around Tory Island and a 38k Donegal Coastal challenge.

It fits therefore that the supporting Expedition vessel is the Tor Dearg, the Tory Island fast ferry skippered by William Duggan with photographer and cameraman Rory O'Donnell on board to document the venture.

On the clockwise swim, Henry's passage took him to Tory Island, Downings, Glengad near Malin Head, Portrush, through the fast-flowing Rathlin Sound after a stop on Rathlin Island; Glenarm in County Antrim, then into Belfast Lough at Carrickfergus before carrying on south along the North Down coast between Copeland Island and Old Lighthouse Island off Donaghadee. It was then down the Ards Peninsula to Portavogie where he halted to take a break back in Bangor where the Tor Dearg berthed in the Marina on Monday (19th October). Harbour Master Kevin Baird welcomed them. " We are delighted to welcome and support Henry O'Donnell on his epic adventure to swim around the Island of Ireland. Henry arrived into Bangor shortly after the tragic death of local sea swimmer Mary Feeney, and it was extremely thoughtful of him to dedicate a section of his swim in her memory. We also applauded his efforts to raise money for both the Irish Cancer Society and Water Safety Ireland. We wish him every success as he continues his courageous mission". According to his Facebook page, Henry has swum between 16 and 21 miles a day.

While in County Down Henry has joined some of the local open water swim clubs – the Helen's Bay Watch, the Brompton Beaus and Belles near the Marina, and the Chunky Dunkers at Donaghadee. Henry appreciated their support. " I wish to thank all of the sea swimmers in the Bangor coastal area for the invaluable support, friendship and kindness during my swim in the beautiful but challenging north Channel. I thank Harbourmaster, Mr Kevin Baird and his team for their professional assistance and for sponsoring the expedition vessel berth during our time in Bangor. The Carrickfergus Harbour team went out of their way too in support of the charity event".

The Expedition will leave Portavogie shortly, destination Ardglass on the South Down coast, subject of course to the wind and sea state, before continuing onward south. They have an exemption from the 5km travel restriction rule in the Republic and are following strict Covid-19 guidance and regulations both ashore and onboard the Tor Dearg.

For more info, visit

Published in Sea Swim
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If there is an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good, it is the numbers taking to the sea and inland waterways during Covid-19.

As The Sunday Times reports today, this season has been the busiest ever for outdoor pursuit providers.

Eileen Murphy of Shearwater Sea Kayaking in north Dublin says her courses are booked out to the end of November.

“We didn’t resume fully after the lockdown until June, as our courses were for regulars in May, but we have never been busier,” Murphy says.

“I know the pandemic has been really tough and hard on people, but the one bright spark has been the number of people who have discovered their coastline – whether it be the Inishkeas off Mayo or Inishmurray off Sligo or Cork’s Roaringwater Bay,” she says

Record numbers have taken up open water swimming – both on the coast and in inland waterways – and many are expected to extend the activity into the winter, once Covid 19 travel restrictions permit.

Open water swimming

Miriam Coleman has been a regular sea swimmer for the past 12 years and says she would find joy in a “puddle” - but loves the ladies bathing shelter at Clontarf.

“You might regret not getting in, but you never regret getting in,” Coleman, who swims year-round, explains.

In Galway, the annual Frances Thornton Memorial Swim, held in aid of Cancer Care West, attracting large numbers for a “virtual” swim where participants could complete a 13 km distance in their own time during August.

Some 450 of over 500 entrants in Ireland and across the world raised €170,000 for Cancer Care West, a substantial increase on their normal anticipated figure for the event.

Surfing, paddle-boarding and windsurfing normally continue over the winter month, but their popularity will be boosted by a new film - not yet released -which recently won an award at the Portuguese Surf Film Festival.

Elisabeth Clyne, Shauna Ward, Katie McAnenaElisabeth Clyne, Shauna Ward and Katie McAnena

Elizabeth Clyne, Katie McAnena and Shauna Ward - all based in the north-west, have been profiled in a 12-minute documentary entitled Ebb and Flow made by photographer Alice Ward.

Ward, a Dubliner, was always a sea swimmer. During lockdown, her long-distance swimming dad John introduced several neighbours – Jen Faherty and Billy Hann - to its delights, and they swam 12 km from Lambay island to Balscadden beach in Howth in July.

The three women interviewed by Ward for her film describe how the cold water environment can “reset” their system, both physically and mentally.

McAnena, a Sligo-based GP from Galway, windsurfed “Jaws”, the big wave surfing break at Pe’ahi in Hawaii back in 2013. Her husband, Finn Mullen, had surfed it several years previously.

Last January, the couple were among five people to windsurf a record wave at Mullaghmore. McAnena, the first woman, was captured on film by videographer Clem McInerney.

Former Army Ranger Henry O’Donnell is currently attempting the first solo fin swim around Ireland for Water Safety Ireland and the Irish Cancer Society

former Army Ranger Henry O'Donnell who is swimming around Ireland for Water Safety Ireland and the Irish Cancer Society  Photo:  Rory O’DonnellFormer Army Ranger Henry O'Donnell who is swimming around Ireland for Water Safety Ireland and the Irish Cancer Society Photo: Rory O’Donnell

“I’m at this 52 years, and I feel at home in the water, but it doesn’t have to be a big climb to enjoy it,” he says.

“People don’t even have to join a club – the pods of dolphins around the coast are also now pods of swimmers, and one just has to be aware of safety.”

Water safety

Water Safety Ireland’s highly informative website has safety tips and advice for open water swimming, including never swimming alone, very gradual acclimatisation to colder temperatures, risks of cold water shock – and emphasis on checking tides and weather. Download WSI safety advice on the PDF below.

Read more in The Sunday Times here

Published in Sea Swim
21st August 2020

RNLI Helvick Swim Cancelled

The 2020 RNLI Helvick Sponsored Swim in County Waterford which was scheduled for Sunday, September 13, has been cancelled due to the revised Covid-19 restrictions.

It would have been the 26th year of the event which was a major fundraiser for the RNLI and social occasion in Waterford.

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About Irish Ferries

Irish Ferries, owned by the Irish Continental Group, is a a major ferry operator in Ireland, providing daily and weekly links to and from Ireland for tourism and freight travelling between Ireland and the UK and Ireland and the continent. Irish Ferries has a fleet of six ships, three of which service the busy Dublin to Holyhead route.

The ICG Chairman is John B McGuckian and the CEO is Eamon Rothwell.