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The Chief Executive of Water Safety Ireland has suggested that it may be time to introduce mandatory enforcement of wearing lifejackets.

"Perhaps it is time now to prioritise water safety in Ireland even more than ever and do as was done with road safety. In particular, the enforcement of wearing a lifejacket and making water safety and swimming skills a mandatory part of our Primary School curriculum and not discretionary as it is at present," says John Leech, CEO of, the statutory agency established to promote water safety in Ireland.

His comments follow analysis of drownings and emergency rescue incidents during the past Summer when there were more people holidaying at home due to pandemic restrictions. More calls for rescue were made on beach lifeguards, to the RNLI, the Coast Guard and Community Rescue Boats.

National Lifeguard Training Centre in TramoreNational Lifeguard Training Centre in Tramore

"There have been 47 fatal drownings so far this year, that is 14 more than for the same time last year, which is concerning, and we fear that we could end up with more drownings than last year when we had the lowest number since 1936," he says.

John Leech, Podcast guest this week, has also warned about the dangers of entanglement in weeds while swimming in freshwater, a situation which he says, has deteriorated because of the advent of invasive weed species to Irish rivers and lakes.


Published in Tom MacSweeney
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This bank holiday weekend, with more people expected to take part in water-based activities, the RNLI is sharing some advice and top tips to help people stay safe on the water, whether travelling to the coast or visiting inland waters.

RNLI Water Safety Lead, Kevin Rahill said: ‘This Bank Holiday weekend, many people are going to be heading to the water to enjoy themselves. We want to see people having fun in or on the water and keeping safe while doing it. By taking a few simple steps, everyone can reduce the risk of an accident.’

‘Even in Summer, water temperatures can be cold, rarely going above 15 degrees. Cold Water Shock can affect everyone. To avoid this, acclimatise to the water slowly to get used to the cold. If you fall in unexpectedly, remember to ‘Float to Live’ – lie on your back and spread your arms and legs, gently moving them to keep afloat. Keep floating until you feel your breath coming back before calling for help or swimming ashore if nearby.’

With swimming becoming increasing popular Kevin Rahill offered the following advice, ‘Always choose to swim in a lifeguarded area and swim between the flags. Stay within your depth and swim parallel to the shore. Watch out for rip currents, if you do get caught in one, try to swim parallel to the shore until you can feel you are out of the current before trying to swim shore. Inflatable toys are not suitable for any open water and should be kept for the pool. They can easily be blown offshore very quickly.’

For other activity such as water boating, sailing, canoeing, paddle boarding, wear an appropriate personal flotation device suitable for the activity, and always carry a means of calling for help.

Water safety Ireland adds:  Nine people have drowned at waterways on the island of Ireland in seven days, six at inland waterways, leading Water Safety Ireland to make a national stay safe appeal to the public throughout the Bank Holiday weekend and the month of August. People are advised to swim only at Lifeguarded waterways or in areas that are traditionally known to be safe and have ringbuoys available for rescues.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Diving in for a cool swim after a car journey in warm weather may seem tempting, but it multiplies the risk of drowning, Water Safety Ireland has warned.

As The Sunday Independent reports, the appeal has been issued on the eve of the UN’s first world drowning prevention day  – and after six people died in swimming-related incidents over the past week.

“Even if we have slightly cooler weather to come, travelling in a warm car increases the body’s core temperature, “ Water Safety Ireland chief executive John Leech explains.

“This exaggerates the impact of cold shock if one jumps into the water,” Leech says.

CEO of Water Safety Ireland John LeechWater Safety Ireland chief executive John Leech

Cold shock can induce uncontrolled breathing which can increase heart rate and blood pressure and cause cardiac arrest.

Water Safety Ireland has appealed to people to swim only in lifeguarded areas or on waterways where there is good local knowledge, with shallow shelving allowing people to remain safely their depth.

It is also reminding people never to use inflatable toys in water, to supervise children closely, to wear a lifejacket when on a leisure craft, and to avoid mixing alcohol with water activities.

Buildings and structures including Dublin Port’s diving bell will be illuminated in blue for UN world drowning prevention day, an initiative that was spearheaded by Ireland and Bangladesh.

Ireland records an average of 115 drownings annually.

In the decade to 2020, drowning was responsible for 1,151 deaths in Ireland - and over 2.5 million preventable deaths worldwide.

During the month of June alone, there were 27 rescues by lifeguards in five counties, according to figures supplied to Water Safety Ireland.

Lion's mane jellyfish

Meanwhile, there have been sightings of Lion's mane jellyfish on the east and west coasts at Malahide in Dublin, Mullaghmore in Sligo and Ballyvaughan, Co Clare.

A sting from a Lion's mane can cause nausea, sweating, cramps and headaches.

A spokesman for Sligo County Council warned that people can get into difficulties from panic caused if stung by one of these particular jellyfish.

Fatalities on inland waters

Five of the six fatalities in the water this week occurred inland.

Jay Moffett (13) died in Scarva, Co Down on Monday after he got into difficulty while swimming with friends, and Killian Casey (15) died in hospital late this week after he was rescued from Lough Sheelin, bordering Cavan, Westmeath and Meath on Tuesday afternoon

A 55-year old man named locally as Peter Jones died in Lough Melvin, Co Fermanagh on Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday evening, 29-year-old mother of two Natasha Corr lost her life at Swan lake outside Gowna village on the Longford-Cavan border.

Also on Wednesday,a man in his seventies named locally as Michael Hoey died in a snorkelling incident at Spencer Harbour, Drumkeeran, Co Leitrim.

A man in his sixties died at Dollymount strand, Dublin, on Friday in a suspected case of cardiac arrest.

Read The Sunday Independent here

Published in Water Safety

“Get your bearings — always think water safety”. That’s what Dublin Port harbourmaster Capt Michael McKenna is urging sailors, anglers, kayakers, windsurfers, kitesurfers, paddleboarders, swimmers and jetski users to remember on the lower reaches of the Liffey and out into Dublin Bay.

Actor and comedian Darren Conway has been enlisted for the port’s water safety campaign, which coincides with UN World Drowning Prevention Day this weekend.

In an interview with Wavelengths, Capt McKenna explains how it came about, and welcomes the increase in and activity on the water in recent months.

The campaign outlines eight steps (listed below) for water users to remember, starting with planning a voyage and checking weather, wind, and tides.

Dublin Port's new water safety flyerDublin Port's new water safety flyer

Dublin Port is handling up to 50 ship movements a day, and so Capt Mc Kenna urges craft seeking to cross shipping channels to call up the port’s vessel traffic system (VTS) on VHF channel 12.

VTS can advise the leisure craft as to when it is safe to cross the channel – and can also advise ships arriving and leaving to look out for smaller craft, he explains.

The benefits are two-fold. Kayaks and small white yachts or paddleboarders on a breezy day can be difficult to spot, he says.

“And the person on a smaller leisure craft has a much shorter horizon,” he explains.

If in a kayak or on a board, “you can’t yet see the ship coming over the horizon and it might be on top of you in six minutes,” he says.

“Please don’t be shy to call – VTS will be delighted with the call,” he says.

Compact VHF radios in waterproof pouches are a good investment for smaller craft users, he says.

Capt McKenna also reminds people in recreational craft to wear personal flotation devices (PFDs) at all times.

The PFD is no use in the boot of a car, he says, and he appeals to crew on larger yachts to remember this too.

“Isn’t it great to see so many people out on the water,” he adds.

You can listen to him on Wavelengths below

Dublin Port’s eight safety steps, which apply to anyone on the water right around the coastline, are:

  1. Plan your voyage: check the wind, weather and tide.
  2. Tell someone where you are going and your time of arrival/return.
  3. Wear a personal flotation device.
  4. Ensure your safety equipment is working, including VHF radio for boat users.
  5. Familiarise yourself with the location of the shipping lanes in Dublin Port.
  6. Keep a sharp lookout for other boats by sight and by sound, and radar if you have one.
  7. Call VTS on VHF Channel 12 to get traffic updates and permission to cross the shipping channel, or traffic routing schemes, at Dublin Port.
  8. In an emergency, call the Coast Guard on VHF Ch 16 or phone 112.

More information is on

Published in Wavelength Podcast
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Following the launch of its “Always Think Water Safety” awareness campaign earlier this month, Dublin Port Company (DPC) is issuing a reminder to the public to use Dublin Bay in a safe and responsible manner this weekend and for the remainder of the summer, with the heatwave bringing more people out to enjoy water-based sports and activities.

With the arrival of warmer temperatures and continued easing of lockdown restrictions, a growing number of leisure boat users, kayakers, paddle boarders, jet-skiers and sea-swimmers are venturing out into the surroundings of Dublin Bay and Dublin Port, many for the first time.

Unfortunately, some have also found themselves in potentially dangerous situations on the water requiring the guidance of Dublin Port crews to keep them clear of the shipping lanes, and DPC is keen to ensure everyone knows how to protect themselves and others.

DPC is encouraging anybody planning a trip on the water to “get their bearings - always think water safety” and to familiarise themselves with the basics on water safety in a new leaflet available here. Included is a new map showing a simplified version of the shipping lanes at Dublin Port, where permission to cross is mandatory for all leisure craft users. This information, and more, is available at:

The message has been reinforced by sketch comedian Darren Conway in his video here

Note on Jet Skis and Personal Watercraft (PWC)

Jet ski and PWC users are reminded to adhere to the 6 knots speed limit when within 60 m of a pier, jetty, slipway, mooring, shore or another vessel and 120 m of a swimmer or dive flag. Freestyling is not permitted within 200m of swimmers, or the shoreline.

Published in Dublin Bay

Belfast Harbour Police has welcomed the arrival of its first fully equipped Police boat which will improve water safety and crime prevention along the city's popular waterfront.

The patrol boat which forms part of a programme of investment in water safety, is named Bowstead, after John Bowstead, the first Constable appointed to police the quays in Belfast during 1824.

Bowstead will operate on waterways within Belfast Harbour, focusing on public access quays and areas popular with visitors.

A fully trained crew of Belfast Harbour Police Officers will be supporting the Harbour’s ambition to be a safe and attractive place for everyone.

The boat was manufactured by Redbay Boats in Cushendall, Co. Antrim and will also support Belfast Harbour Police’s joint operations with Lagan Search and Rescue, the PSNI and Border Force.

Published in Belfast Lough

The mother of a young boy who drowned during a family holiday in Spain almost two years ago has welcomed a new pre-school programme which aims to encourage small children to think about water safety.

As The Times Ireland reports, Ireland’s first pre-school water safety programme focuses on one simple concept – that a child should always hold an adult’s hand near water.

Published on the eve of national water safety awareness week, which begins today (June 14), it was devised by Water Safety Ireland.(WSI).

It has been sent by WSI to over 4,000 early learning and care centres across the State.

“Nobody goes on holiday and expects not to come back as a whole family,” says Amanda Cambridge, whose contact with the safety body after her son’s death led to initiative.

Avery Greene, from Co Cork, was the youngest of her three children.

She recalled how she had just returned from the pool near their holiday accommodation in August 2019 minutes before the accident occurred.

“My husband Eric was due to arrive that day, so I was tidying up, and I thought Avery was on the couch with his bottle and blanket,” she said.

“The doors of the apartment were closed, but not first I thought he was hiding, but when I went outside a neighbour told me a child had fallen into the pool,” she said.

His heartbroken parents donated Avery’s organs.

“Avery was due to start swimming lessons when we returned home, and we have photos of him with his armbands on which gave him a false sense of security,” she says.

“ That day he thought he could float,” she said.

The “Hold Hands” learning programme involves storyboards which aim to grab children’s imagination - with a pointer shaped like a hand.

It has been endorsed by Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys and Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman.

“A friend of mine, Leanne Maverley from Crosshaven, who was poolside with me in Spain, came up with the idea,”she said.

Early Childhood Ireland and Seas Suas helped with the design, which took 18 months, she said.

Last week, a 22-month old boy was drowned in a paddling pool at his home in Tulsk, Co Roscommon.

“It broke my heart, as I know what they are feeling,” Cambridge said.

WSI chair Martin O’Sullivan noted that an average of ten drownings occur every month in Ireland.

Children have not been able to take lessons in swimming pools over the past year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Imagine how many drownings could be prevented if we can make water safety part of our everyday conversation with children, friends and family,” he said.

Read more in The Times here

Published in Water Safety
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Irish water safety organisations have welcomed the first-ever UN Resolution on Global Drowning Prevention which was adopted by the UN General Assembly last week.

The UN adopted a historic Resolution on drowning prevention, acknowledging the issue for the first time in its 75-year history. Drowning cost the world over 2.5 million lives in the last decade. The vast majority of these deaths could and should have been prevented.

The Resolution, which was passed by the General Assembly, establishes drowning as an important international issue, recognised by all 193 Member States of the UN, sets out the actions that every country should take to prevent drowning and calls for a coordinated UN approach to drowning prevention. It also establishes an annual ‘World Drowning Prevention Day,’ which will be marked for the first time on July 25, 2021.

The Resolution (A/75/L.76) provides a framework for an effective response to the unacceptable toll of drowning deaths worldwide.

Chairman of Water Safety Ireland, Martin O’SullivanChairman of Water Safety Ireland, Martin O’Sullivan - UN Resolution is an historic step for Global Drowning Prevention

In welcoming the Resolution, the Chairman of Water Safety Ireland, Martin O’Sullivan reflected on the drowning burden worldwide and in Ireland: “In the last decade, drowning was responsible for over 2.5 million* preventable deaths worldwide and for 1,200** deaths in Ireland. It is a significant, preventable public health issue. This first-ever UN resolution on global drowning prevention provides a framework for an effective response to this unacceptable toll of drowning deaths.”

The new Resolution, an initiative by Bangladesh and Ireland which was co-sponsored by 79 countries, recognises that drowning affects every nation of the world – through its impact is disproportionate. 90 per cent of drowning deaths occur in low-and middle-income countries, with Asia carrying the highest burden.

Mark Dowie, Chief Executive of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) - Resolution highlights  the immediate need for strategic and significant international action to save lives   Mark Dowie, Chief Executive of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) -the UN Resolution highlights the immediate need for strategic and significant international action to save lives  

Mark Dowie, Chief Executive of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), said: “As an organisation dedicated to saving lives on and around the water, we are thrilled to have supported Member States in efforts to secure a UN Global Drowning Prevention Resolution.In addition, the Resolution proclaims the 25th of July each year as ‘World Drowning Prevention Day’ to raise awareness of the importance of drowning prevention and the need for urgent coordinated multisectoral action to improve water safety, with the aim of reducing preventable deaths.

Published in Water Safety
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The Chief Executive of the State agency, Water Safety Ireland, has made an appeal to all fishermen to take a "risk-based approach" to safety throughout the year to reduce tragedies which coastal communities have endured.

John Leech says that the first quarter of the year "normally brings with it some of the worst fishing vessel tragedies of the year."

"I would like," he says, "to see all our fishermen use a risk-based approach throughout the year and that their families support them in their endeavours. This will help reduce these awful tragedies that our coastal communities have endured each year.

Formerly the Naval Officer who led that Service's Diving Unit and took part in many search-and-rescue operations, John Leech delivers a message about the need for "an enhanced maritime safety culture" on this week's Podcast.

As well as being CEO of the State agency responsible for promoting water safety he is also an experienced sailor, crewed aboard Ireland's round-the-world yacht, NCB Ireland and is one of the top Race Officers for sailing events.

His message, to fishermen, in particular, can also be applied to everyone working in the marine sector and to those who go on the water for leisure, sailing, motorboating, windsurfing, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, all the maritime sports.

The fishing vessel, Alize, from Kilmore Quay that disappeared south of Hook HeadThe fishing vessel, Alize, from Kilmore Quay that disappeared south of Hook Head

"This time last year we all learned of the tragic news that the fishing vessel, Alize, from Kilmore Quay had disappeared approximately south of Hook Head.

"All around our coast we have sacrificed so many lives to the fishing industry with several memorials dotted around our coastline to remember these brave fishermen to whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude for keeping our fishmongers supplied with fresh fish and for keeping our fish processors in business," he says,

Podcast below.

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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Water Safety Ireland is advising parents to supervise their children over the next few days until the current spell of hard weather moves away.

The best advice is to stay off the ice, however, children will be tempted to play on the ice where it has frozen over on canals, ponds, lakes and flooded areas.

Playing on the frozen edges of a pond, lake or canal is perilous as ice can be quite thick in one area yet it can be much thinner close to that same area.

Previous hard spells of weather have ended in tragedy where young children have fallen through the ice and drowned. Water Safety Ireland is advising parents of young children to be aware of their whereabouts over the next few days to ensure they do not fall through the ice.

Ice-related drownings can occur when the rescuer gets into difficulty attempting to rescue another person or a dog. Whereas a dog will normally manage to scramble to safety unaided, regrettably, the owner may not. Know the dangers of ice.

Many factors affect ice thickness including:

  • type of water, location, the time of year, shade from the sun and other environmental factors such as:
  • Water depth and size of body of water.
  • Currents, tides and other moving water.
  • Chemicals including salt.
  • Fluctuations in water levels.
  • Logs, rocks and docks absorbing heat from the sun.
  • Changing air temperature.
  • Shock waves from vehicles travelling on the ice.
  • Ice Colour The colour of ice may be an indication of its strength.
  • Clear blue ice is the strongest.
  • White opaque or snow ice is half as strong as blue ice.
  • Opaque ice is formed by wet snow freezing on the ice.
  • Grey ice is unsafe. The greyness indicates the presence of water.

Did you know ice thickness should be?

  • 15 cm for walking or skating alone
  • 20 cm for skating parties or games
  • 25 cm for snowmobiles

Ice Rescue

  • Never go out on ice alone and especially at night.
  • When you are with others on ice rescuing another person can be dangerous.
  • The safest way to perform a rescue is from the shore.
  • Use your Mobile phone to call for help at 112 and ask for the Coast Guard.
  • Give your precise location, the number of people in difficulty and any conspicuous building or landmark nearby to assist the helicopter locate you.
  • Check if you can reach the person using a ringbuoy and rope, long pole, items of clothing or a branch of a tree from shore – if so, lie down and extend the pole to the person.
  • Instruct the casualty to keep still to maintain their heat and energy.
  • If you go onto ice, wear a lifejacket and carry a long pole or a branch to test the ice in front of you. Bring something to reach or throw to the person (e.g., a ringbuoy, pole, weighted rope or tree branch).
  • When near the break, lie down to distribute your weight and slowly crawl toward the hole. Remaining low, extend or throw your emergency rescue device (ringbuoy, pole, rope or branch) to the person.
  • Instruct the person to kick while you pull them out.
  • Move the person to a safe position on shore or where you are sure the ice is thick. All casualties should be taken to hospital even if they appear to be unaffected by their ordeal as they will be suffering from hypothermia.

If you get into trouble on ice and you are by yourself

  • Call for help.
  • Resist the immediate urge to climb back out where you fell in.
  • The ice is weak in this area.
  • Use the air trapped in your clothing to get into a floating position on your stomach.
  • Reach forward onto the broken ice without pushing down.
  • Kick your legs to push your torso on to the ice.
  • When you are back on the ice, crawl on your stomach or roll away from the open area with your arms and legs spread out as far as possible to evenly distribute your body weight.
  • Do not stand up!
  • Look for shore and make sure you are going in the right direction.
Published in Water Safety
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