Irish Water Safety celebrates 60 years

Irish Water Safety, the statutory body established to promote water safety in Ireland visited Áras an Uachtaráin on Friday 11th November to celebrate 60 years of promoting water safety in Ireland with the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese.

Fifty voluntary members from all over the country paid a visit to the President of Ireland at the occasion of the Associations 60th year. A number of the volunteers have given over 50 years of voluntary service to the state teaching swimming, lifesaving and rescue skills. They carried with them the much-coveted “Presidents Trophy which was presented to the members by the late President of Ireland, Sean T O Ceallaigh in 1950. Young lifesavers compete for this trophy each year at the National Championships. This year the Clare Ladies team won it which demonstrates the equality of this sport that saves lives.

In this fast changing society where many social and community values appear to be disappearing, IWS is pleased that its voluntary activities and membership are increasing steadily. IWS works with many agencies and communities to reduce drowning and aquatic injuries and are pleased to note that drownings are slowly decreasing since the body was re- established as an independent statutory body in 2000. In 2004, 149 people drowned in Ireland, which is down on the previous ten year average of 180 people per year. IWS strives to reduce this figure further.

An area of great concern to IWS is the alarming rate of drownings through suicide and they are working hard at present to reduce this by working closely with the Samaritans. IWS is working closely with them and they’re “You Don’t have to be alone sticker campaign where these stickers are strategically placed at known sites where people have taken their own lives. In addition they have commenced a collaborative Research project on Suicide Drowning with the Department of Psychiatry & Mental Health Research, UCD.

IWS proposes to conduct an epidemiologic study of all causes of drowning in Ireland both in inland waterways and coastal waterways. The intention is to establish possible correlates of suicidal drowning in Ireland such as demographics, access to waterways and certain features specific to a particular “high risk site. This project is sponsored by the ESB Electric Aid fund and contributions from Local Authorities.

They intend to evaluate the various interventions that have been put in place thus far, with the aim of transferring successful strategies to other areas of the country and perhaps other method specific reduction strategies. Psychiatric Units around the country will be mapped with regard to their proximity to water volume. They also propose to explore the possibility that media reporting may contribute to an increase in site-specific risk areas for drowning. Finally differences and discrepancies between New Zealand and Ireland will be made to ascertain why there is such a discrepancy between the two countries given a relatively similar Geography and population. In 2003, six people drowned as a result of suicide in New Zealand, in Ireland 91.