Group win battle to strip off at Irish beach
NUDISTS could be coming to a beach near you as new laws get the green light, the Sunday World has learned.
The naturist lovers will soon have their own designated sections of beaches, as the government is expected to approve legislation decriminalising public nudity in certain circumstances.
President of the Irish Naturist Association (INA) Pat Gallagher revealed that the Law Reform Commission has recommended that public nudity will only be an offence if it involves a sex act or is intended to cause offence.
As it stands, it is illegal for people to be nude in public, even on quiet stretches of beaches.
This week, Wexford Mayor Ger Carthy warned naturists that they will face arrest if they turn up unannounced on beaches after nudists visited the world-
famous Curracloe beach last Sunday.
The beach hit the headlines in January when the Sunday World revealed pictures of the INA taking part in naked hurling on a secluded section of the strand made famous in the movie Saving Private Ryan.
However, Pat Gallagher, who is based in Co. Roscommon, revealed nudists will soon be able to shed their clothes without fear of arrest once new legislation is passed.
“Unless you are committing a sexual act or absolutely intend to offend, it won’t be illegal. Going on a quiet section of beach, where there’s not too many people around, you’re not out to offend anyone, you’re just there to enjoy yourself.
“Just before the government fell, the Law Reform Commission put forward this document and that has just got to be implemented in the Dáil.”
He said the INA has approached councils in the past asking for designated “clothes optional” sections of beaches.
While many councils were open to the idea, they said they were unsure if they would be legal under current legislation.
“When this is brought in we can go back to the councils again. It’s looking good. It doesn’t mean we’re going to go to Dollymount on a Sunday afternoon in front of thousands of people and children. It’s about finding our own little space somewhere and a signpost saying ‘nude bathers may be seen beyond this point’. If you are offended by nudity, you don’t have to go to that area.”
Pat told how there are around 300 signed-up members of the INA, but many more non-members secretly travel abroad for nudist holidays.
“It’s one of the fastest-growing markets in the world. There are many companies organising trips to various naturist places. It’s all promoted by government and it’s a huge business,” he said.
“Irish people can take their two-week holidays and their neighbours think they’re just going to France or wherever and don’t know anything about what they’re doing.
“I go down to a nudist place in Spain and I meet a good few Irish people. When I ask if they’d go on a beach in Ireland or join the organisation, they’d say, ‘oh no, we wouldn’t do that’.
“I suppose there’s a fear of neighbours finding out. It’s inherent in our psyche.”
Pat said all his neighbours in Roscommon know he’s a nudist and they don’t treat him any differently.
“As I’m speaking to you now, I’m standing in my garden in a pair of flip-flops and that’s all I’m wearing. It’s quite pleasant here at the moment and I’m doing a few chores, so I just took off my clothes and it’s quite comfortable.
“All my neighbours and people around here know we’re naturists and we get no problem from anybody. Nobody shuns us. We’re quite popular in the area.
He said he got into naturism in the 1970s while holidaying in Wexford with his wife. They were on a quiet stretch of beach and they decided to ditch their swimming trunks.
“I realised I never needed the wet trunks, so we just evolved into it like that,” he explained.
He soon joined the association, but said back then it was very much an underground movement.
“There was more of a negative reaction then. When I joined it was like a secret society. It was hush, hush. People didn’t use full names and if we were producing a newsletter it would be initials only.
“Over the years, myself and another guy were more open about putting it out there and talking to the media. We brought it out there. I know I’m not doing anything wrong.”
The INA regularly organises events around the country, such as the visit to Curracloe and a recent walk through woods in Wicklow. They also hold swimming events in indoor pools on a weekly basis.
“There are events on all the time. Last weekend was World Naked Gardening Day and they went to Wicklow with a crowd. They do a lot of stuff.”
The INA even hosts an annual meeting in a hotel where clothes are optional.
“Nudity is optional in the meeting rooms and at selected times at the swimming pool and spa and so on. The hotel management is fine with it,” said Pat.
“We’re all born naked. I don’t know why anyone would want to criminalise nudity. Even if someone is a religious person, we can say we’re made in the image of your God.
“Then people say ‘what about the children?’ Our children grew up going to naturist events and they grew up to be healthy human beings. They don’t have the hang-ups some people might have.
“They don’t have to wonder what’s under a girl’s blouse because they know what’s under a girl’s blouse. There’s no mystery there, it’s just normal.”
He encouraged anyone interested to get involved, adding: “Once you try it there’s no going back.”