by Frank Schnittger
Wed Jul 24th, 2013 at 10:04:51 AM EST
I have a letter published in today's Irish independent (Irelands largest selling daily newspaper). Unfortunately they left out most of the substance of the letter leaving only a slightly repetitive rump...
Save lives by making swimming safe - Independent.ie
* Twelve people have drowned whilst swimming in Ireland this past month - about as many as die on our roads in an average month. Telling people not to swim on our rare days of hot summer weather is akin to telling them not to use the roads. It might save some lives, but it is hardly realistic or practical advice.
So what is to be done? Ireland is almost alone in the world in not designating certain areas in every county as safe swimming areas and not employing lifeguards to help assure their safety.
Let's stop wringing our hands about the drownings and start doing something practical to prevent even more. Let's designate safe swimming areas in every county and employ lifeguards to make them even safer.
The middle (unpublished) section of the letter read as follows:
On the contrary commercial organisations like the ESB are doing their utmost to chase people away from safe swimming areas like those at Lacken on Blessington lake thereby making it more likely that people will swim and drown in much less safe parts of the lake.
Anywhere else in Europe, lakes and reservoirs like Blessington lake would be the most prized and valuable swimming amenities in in the country, with public beaches, lifeguards and beach cleaning services. Here the ESB employs staff to chase away anyone who is not a paid up member of a sailing, windsurfing or adventure club with their own public liability insurance. Indeed the ESB is busy destroying and locking up public car parks and barring rights of way to prevent legitimate rights of access to the lake.
Whilst some may object that the lake is primarily intended as a water source for Dublin and a power source for the national grid it must be remembered that the land on which it is located was acquired by compulsory purchase orders at extremely cheap rates from the people of the locality. It's current owners therefor have a duty to make it available as a community amenity and indeed to provide bins, bin collection and lifeguard services during the peak summer months.
Clearly no criticism of state owned commercial enterprises like the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) is allowed. Whilst gaining the benefit of an enormous public resource, the ESB doesn't see itself as having any public responsibilities in return. They won't even keep the place clean or provide a basic rubbish collection service. Understandably they see their basic remit as being to produce power from the Dam at Poulaphouca. Despite being located in County Wicklow, the water is basically owned and controlled by Dublin Corporation for use by Dublin City. Nothing wrong with that, but then who has the responsibility to maintain the resource as a local and tourist amenity?
Blessington lake is one of the most beautiful in Ireland, and could be the basis of a thriving tourist industry as well as providing a better amenity to locals: