Swimmers continue to take to the river at Sandybanks despite loss of lifeguard service

Aileen Hahesy

Aileen Hahesy

Visitors to the Sandybanks in Clonmel on one of the sunniest afternoons of the summer last week expressed disappointment at the County Council’s decision to pull the summer lifeguard service from the popular bathing spot.

But for most people The Nationalist spoke to on the river bank last Wednesday afternoon, July 13, the Council’s public information campaign highlighting that the traditional bathing area in Marlfield was not suitable for swimming wasn’t going to deter them from enjoying the river.

The lifeguards would normally have begun their summer holiday duty at Sandybanks as well as Sandybottom in Cahir, The Green in Ardfinnan and along the river in Carrick-on-Suir last week.

But instead two Council workers were handing out information leaflets explaining the Council’s decision to pull the lifeguard service on the grounds the water didn’t meet the minimum EU bathing standards and for health and safety reasons due to the absence of any facilities for bathers such as shelters, toilets, hot water, parking areas, access to emergency services and safety features such as handrails and barriers to protect children.

The Council’s message must have been getting across to the public as Sarah Cahill from Irishtown, Clonmel, Rachel O’Riordan from Marlfield and Pamela Norris from Bianconi Drive, Clonmel all reported that there were much fewer people at the Sandybanks than usual for such a warm sunny day. The three friends, who were soaking in the rays on the river bank, believed the Council’s decision to withdraw the lifeguards from the Sandybanks had more to do with saving the local authority money than the quality of the water and health and safety concerns.

“It’s disgraceful,” said Sarah, “there are loads of young fellows who use the river.”

“To be quite honest, this is only my first time down here this summer and I was shocked. Where was everyone? I couldn’t believe it. Then we saw a person handing out leaflets. I think it’s a cost cutting measure rather than health and safety measure,” said Sarah, who also thought the river at Sandybanks had never looked as clean.

Rachel said the reasons given by the Council for stopping the lifeguard service were “lame”.

“It’s a shame really because it’s a lovely spot for the kids. It is only for eight weeks in the summer and the kids enjoyed it,” she said.

She pointed out that the bins that used to be on the river bank at Sandybanks were gone and there hadn’t been any attempt by the Council to clean the weeds from the river.

Pamela said when the lifeguard service was in place at least parents knew that if their children came to the Sandybanks to swim during the summer they would be safe.

Enjoying a swim in the river were Jake McDonald from Bianconi Drive, Clonmel and Andreas Kvedaravici from Auburn Park, Clonmel.

Andreas said the removal of the lifeguard service was a terrible decision.. He felt people would continue to come to Sandbanks to swim regardless of the Council’s warnings so the lifeguard service was still needed. It was his first time at Sandybanks and thought it was a good place to come for a swim.

“You always have people who like going for a swim. Some people don’t like to go down to Tramore and want to stay closer to home,” he said.

Jake agreed. “It’s a good feeling to know the lifeguard is there. Even if they don’t want people swimming here, you are still better off having a lifeguard in place anyway,” he told The Nationalist.

Stacey Kennedy from Carrigeen, Clonmel has been visiting Sandybanks for years and while the loss of the lifeguard service didn’t worry her personally as she is a strong swimmer, she was concerned for the young children who visit the bathing area to swim.

“I think it’s a bad decision because it’s a popular place. I know it’s not that packed here today but people will continue coming here anyway.”

The two Council workers handing out information leaflets to the visitors to Sandybanks didn’t wish to be named but reported that everyone they had met at the site seemed to accept the Council’s decision and they hadn’t received any negative feedback so far.

The were telling visitors that the Council couldn’t man the area with lifeguards as it wasn’t a suitable bathing area and people swam in the river at their own risk.