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Peter Conroy, chairman of the Irish Tow Surf Rescue Club, based in Spanish Point, with fellow club members; Bernard Cahill, Wayne Timmins, Donagh Cronin and David Ainsworth. Photograph by John Kelly

Move to ban jet skis set to prevent safety training

NEW Clare County Council byelaws would see the use of jetskis prohibited at White Strand in Miltown Malbay, White Strand in Doonbeg, at Ballycuggeran Lake in Killaloe and Ballyalla Lake in Ennis.

The move towards a ban is being criticised by Peter Conroy, the Miltown-based chairman of the Irish Tow Surf Rescue Club, who says it is regressive, and will limit the club’s ability to carry out the training it requires to provide rescue services.

He says the club was founded after it became apparent there was a need for safety services.

Mr Conroy said, “It was set up about 12 years ago when we started tow surfing at the Cliffs of Moher, that big wave underneath there.

“We started surfing there and we started realising that the Coast Guard couldn’t help us if we got in trouble in certain areas, so we started to get professionals over to train us up in jetski rescue and certain medical procedures. Basically the club started then and for the last number of years we have been providing training.

“If you look at any of the big wave spots in Ireland, there’s usually a jetski out there and on that is a trained operator to keep an eye on things.”

He said that the club have provided defibrillators at a number of points along the Clare coast, and it also maintains them.

“We noticed that there were no public access defibrillators so the club has paid for a number of defibrillators along the coast. Especially around our training area which is at the White Strand and Spanish Point, the Bellbridge Hotel, the lifeguard hut in Spanish Point, the Armada Hotel, White Strand in Doonbeg. Last year we installed a public access defibrillator in Lahinch as well. The club pays for the maintenance of all of that.”

Should the Council’s byelaws be put in place, the club won’t be able to train, he said.

“A lot of complaints were made in Killaloe and Kilkee, and I can understand that, I have seen what happens in those areas. But what confused all of us is that there was no ban mentioned in Kilkee, just White Strand, Spanish Point and Ballyalla.

“I live in Miltown Malbay, I’ve never seen problems with skis at White Strand or Spanish Point. Why is this happening on our local beaches, where the club trains during the winter a lot of the time, and in the summer if the waves are big enough.

“We have a great rapport with the community groups and the hotels. We haven’t got a phone call or an email from the Council even though we are experts in our field of rescue jetskis.”
He said the club has trained local swim groups in water safety and provides safety help through the use of jetskis at the annual Lahinch to Liscannor charity swim. They have also assisted the Coast Guard when they search for bodies.

Entirely banning jetskis from the locations suggested is very misguided, he believes.

“We’re more into regulation and training rather than banning of the ski. Everyone uses their skis for different reasons, you don’t see motorbikes banned off the road because one or two idiots drive them very fast.”

At the moment he says that people who use jetskis in an inappropriate manner can already be arrested and fined.
“There are people who use them (jetskis) incorrectly, but that’s what laws are in place for. They should be enforcing the laws that are there, not inventing new laws that are going to affect a lot of people that abide by the law and have gone off and got licensed and had training.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.