MEP Grace O’Sullivan took to the waters of the River Lee at sunrise this morning to highlight the city’s connection to the water. But a lack of amenities means the river is still off limits to most people who live near its banks.
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 the river for locals and visitors with new facilities and a new Lido of Cork. As Cork Harbour Festival is well underway following a scorching bank holiday weekend, the MEP sought to highlight the opportunities for making the river a more attractive place for recreational activities that will benefit both residents of Cork and visiting tourists. This includes better water quality, improved watersports and changing facilities and ultimately a Cork Lido bathing area, as proposed by Niall Kenny of the CorkLido campaign.
The Cork Lido project has been discussed for years and previously places such as Kennedy Quay, the Marina and Horgan’s Quay had been identified as potential locations for a new public bathing area. Following the Covid-19 lockdowns, sea and river swimming has become more popular than ever but most Cork residents still have to make the trip to the beach if they want a quick dip.
Speaking from the banks of the Lee after the early morning paddleboard, Grace O’Sullivan MEP said: “The River Lee is the perfect example of Ireland’s relationship with our rivers and streams. 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.”
She added, “The city used to have an outdoor public pool, the Lee Baths, before it closed in 1986. I’d like to see the return of those public amenities, but they must be accessible to all and not just private businesses as we have seen with some outdoor bath projects in Ireland in recent years. The incredible organisers of Cork Harbour Festival have shown that there is appetite to open the Lee to the public, now it’s time to get down to work.”
Later in the day, in celebration of World Ocean Day, Grace addressed a panel of the Fair Seas campaign, an environmental movement to support the creation of Marine Protected Areas in Irish waters. The EU’s Nature Restoration Law is one of the main topics of interest, as it aims to restore 30% of Ireland’s damaged marine ecosystems by 2030 including sensitive seagrass beds and kelp forests in Irish waters.