As sea-swimming continues its covid comeback and Irish cities look to bring back public bathing projects, MEP Grace O’Sullivan is campaigning for Irish towns to fall back in love with their rivers as well.
At 5am on Wednesday 7 June, MEP Grace O’Sullivan took to the water of the River Lee with her wetsuit and paddleboard as part of a campaign to open up access to Irish rivers for locals and visitors with new infrastructure and facilities. Following a scorching bank holiday weekend, the Green Party MEP sought to highlight the opportunities for making our river towns more attractive places for recreational activities that will benefit both residents and tourists.
Looking to amenities like Banagher, County Offaly’s outdoor pool along the River Shannon or Ballina in County Tipperary’s pool on the banks of Lough Derg, MEP O’Sullivan wants to see a simple and safe outdoor swimming area introduced in every Irish riverside town by the end of the decade. Such a development would lead to better water quality, improved watersports and changing facilities.
Following the Covid-19 lockdowns, sea and river swimming has become more popular than ever but most swimmers still have to make the trip to the seaside if they want a quick dip. And while pollution, water safety and access remain a barrier to most taking part in swimming activities, new facilities could be a gamechanger for riverside towns and villages. EU Regional Development Funding which has a provision for ‘revitalising areas for recreation’ could be an excellent source of revenue for towns and cities across Ireland to bring life to the riverbanks.
Speaking from the banks of Cork’s River Lee, Grace O’Sullivan MEP said: “Owing a lot to our Viking heritage, every single Irish city is built on a river, yet in most places we take a very “look but don’t touch” approach. We are undergoing the most significant improvement of water quality and marine protection in the history of the State at the moment, it’s time to capitalise on it for the enjoyment and wellbeing of the people who live here.”
MEP O’Sullivan added, “There is some significant EU legislation on the way which could be a game-changer for Irish rivers and coasts and all who enjoy them. The EU Nature Restoration Law aims to restore 25,000km of free-flowing EU rivers to stop flooding and help species like Atlantic Salmon and European Eel to recover. This kind of ambition could create a whole new approach to how Ireland treats its waterways, to the benefit of all.”