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In hot water Swim Ireland 'drowning' in criticism after advising bathers to take dip in busy shipping lane

'It’s kind of jaw-dropping for the national governing body to tell people to go swimming in a shipping lane at the second-busiest port in Northern Ireland'

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Champion swimmer Maureen McCoy at Newcastle this week.

Champion swimmer Maureen McCoy at Newcastle this week.

Champion swimmer Maureen McCoy at Newcastle this week.

The national governing body of swimming in Ireland is ‘drowning’ in criticism after they told people to go for a dip in a busy shipping channel.

And that was just one of a number of embarrassing blunders made by Swim Ireland after they launched a new interactive map designed to show swimmers across the island of Ireland where the best and safest places to bathe outdoors can be found.

But just days after the Swim Spot Map was launched they have already had to make a ‘wave’ of changes following what some swimmers in Northern Ireland described as “quite dangerous blunders”.

And embarrassing ones too – like mixing up a Northern Ireland town with one in Australia with the same name!

One of the potentially dangerous blunders – since rectified after the Sunday World contacted Swim Ireland – was the advice of where to swim in Warrenpoint, Co. Down.

According to the interactive map – which helpfully comes with live information about weather conditions and tides – swimmers should take the plunge just off the pier.

“That’s right in the middle of one of the busiest shipping channels in Ireland,” said an exasperated swimmer Maureen McCoy.

Maureen, from Banbridge, Co. Down, is an award-winning long-distance open-water swimmer who swam the English Channel in 2009 and runs a website wildswim.ie which aims to give more accurate advice about open-water swimming in Ireland.

“It’s kind of jaw-dropping for the national governing body to tell people to go swimming in a shipping lane at the second-busiest port in Northern Ireland.

“If someone didn’t know the area and arrived in Warrenpoint and had taken the advice from Swim Ireland they could find themselves swimming in very dangerous waters – not to mention all the diesel from the ships, which would make the water quality very poor.”

Perhaps most embarrassing – given Swim Ireland receives hundreds of thousands of pounds and euro in public funding from Sport Ireland and Sport NI – was their description of where to swim in Newcastle, Co. Down.

The description of two ocean baths and near year-round swimming and lifeguards sounds great except for one glaring error – they were describing Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Just the 10,000 miles out!

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Newcastle, County Down.

Newcastle, County Down.

Newcastle, County Down.

 

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According to the map: “Newcastle is fortunate enough to have two ocean baths facilities, Newcastle and Merewether, that sit on its pristine coastline and are open year-round for the community to enjoy.”

But the text has been completely cut-and-pasted from a council website in Australia.

“It’s as if they knew nothing about Newcastle, Co. Down. It is pretty famous so to Google it and come up with a Newcastle in Australia and not notice is really extraordinary” said Maureen.

“It’s pretty shoddy work, especially for an organisation that receives so much public money.

“I mean this is the organisation that’s sending Irish swimmers off to Tokyo to compete in the Olympics. They really ought to have higher standards than this.”

Swim Ireland launched the map, complete with 200 outdoor swim spots across the island, on Tuesday with great fanfare and were keen to thank Sport Ireland for funding the project.

Their website stated: “Swim Spots – swimspots.meandthewater.ie – takes the guesswork out of your trip. It gives real-time weather, forecasts, tides and other local information, like parking and facilities.”

But the map mayhem didn’t stop at shipping channels and wrong towns.

Another mistake sees them telling swimmers to take the plunge in the sea at Bloody Bridge, just outside Newcastle.

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Newcastle, New South Wales.

Newcastle, New South Wales.

Newcastle, New South Wales.

 

However, local swimmers have long warned people to avoid the area due to lethal tides.

“The area to swim at Bloody Bridge – where people in the know direct you – is up a mountain track to the rock pools,”Maureen said.

“We would never tell anyone to swim at the shore because many people have been swept away and drowned over the years there. I knew someone who died swimming there so it’s just not safe. It’s quite a dangerous blunder.

“We can only highlight these mistakes because these are the areas where we swim in Northern Ireland,” says Maureen.

“But it makes you wonder how accurate the rest of the map is.”

Since making them aware of the errors Swim Ireland have made the relevant changes to their interactive map but it’s not clear if they are now conducting a review of all the 200 swim spots.

A statement from Swim Ireland stated: “We have updated the four locations on the interactive Swim Spots map outlined in your email. The swim spot (location pin) was accurate and directed people to the correct location on three of the four swim spots you identified.”

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