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AVAILABILITY will determine if Clare’s busiest beaches are staffed with lifeguards throughout the month of June.

Over the first weekend of June last year, local surfers performed more than fifty rescues at an unmanned Lahinch, this prompted Clare County Council to employ extra lifeguards with increasing crowds flocking to the coast during a busy staycation season.

A full-time service must now be provided for the month of June annually by Clare County Council, Cllr Liam Grant (GP). “With the increase in popularity of sea swimming and other water sports, there is now a need for lifeguards every day at the most popular beaches during the month of June,” he stated.

This deployment “will be contingent on their availability,” senior engineer Cyril Feeney admitted. Lifeguards in Clare are primarily second and third level students, he advised. A decision will be reached once the lifeguard interview and fitness assessment process is completed. Any commitment in January would be “premature”, he said “but every effort will be made to extend lifeguard cover”.

Beaches in Clare are only coming to become busier, Cllr Grant predicted and cited the increasing popularity of sea swimming. “If we can get lifeguards, if we can’t get them it is unfortunate,” he conceded. “Places like Lahinch are crazy when it comes to stats,” Liam commented while noting of the 403 rescues nationally, 208 of them were in Lahinch which was more than the majority of counties combined. “It is by far the busiest beach in the country. Lahinch is an incredibly popular beach, there hundreds in the water in January”.

Consideration of the starting time of 11am for lifeguards must also be reviewed, the Lahinch man believed, “if you arrive at Lahinch in 11 there will be thousands of people, we need to look at 9am for places like Spanish Point”. Increased cover would make Clare a more attractive county to visit. Between twenty to thirty personnel in the Lahinch area are involved as volunteer lifeguards.

He added, “Four times in my life I’ve been on Lahinch beach when someone has lost their life, I have seen a body pulled from the water and I don’t want to see it again”.

Reaction of Council officials last June was praised by Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG). People are now in the water the “whole year round,” he said. “People have to have personal responsibility and make informed decisions when it is safe to enter water, we can’t have the State constantly wrapping its hands around you,” the Lisdoonvarna man added. Education will also play a part, Garrihy maintained, “there is no one solution to this, lifeguards on their own won’t deal with it in the positive sustainable manner”.

Cover is a must for June, Cllr Pat Burke (FG) commented. “It all comes down to the weather, we often can get better weather in June than the holiday period of July and August”.

Quantities of visitors to Lahinch and other beaches along the western seaboard was “hard to believe,” Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) noted. “Their popularity will continue to increase as long as COVID is there”. Collaboration between groups such as the National Ambulance Service, Civil Defence, volunteer lifeguards and the existing service is essential, Cllr Ian Lynch (IND) remarked.

In order to reduce the seasonality of West Clare, the local authority must offer “reasonable services” such as lifeguard cover for all of June, Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) flagged. “We need to deliver permanent lifeguards for three months of the year at a minimum to show places like Spanish Point and Lahinch are not just for five months of the season. We need to be more ambitious than the response”.

Speaking at the January meeting of the County Council, Director of Service, Carmel Kirby referenced the “expectations” of councillors. She confirmed the interviews and assessments would be completed in the coming months. “We will prioritise busier beaches for June, if we have lifeguards available we will use them”.

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