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Cli Donnellan, a regular swimmer at Knockaphort, Lough Derg, who has started a petition to present to Clare County Council looking for bye laws to be drawn up to protect swimmers from jet ski activity in the swimming area. Photograph by John Kelly

Petition launched over ‘dangerous’ East Clare jet ski activity

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JET SKI activity at one of Lough Derg’s most scenic bathing areas has been described as “an accident waiting to happen”. 

The issue has prompted a petition calling for restrictions to protect swimmers at Knockaphort, a popular bathing spot and launch point for vessels sailing to Holy Island. Local swimmers have reported a number of near-misses with jet skis. One Mountshannon woman described her own recent experience as “horrific”. 

Clí Donnellan told The Champion she was so frustrated with the ongoing problem that she launched the petition last Sunday night on Change.org. “The situation last weekend was just shocking,” she said. “There is a massive, massive safety issue. Knocaphort is only around 500 metres from Holy Island. There are reeds about halfway between the shore and the island and jet skis just shouldn’t be there, and they certainly shouldn’t be speeding. Swimmers are now reluctant to go into the water because of the danger.”

Clí recalled her own recent near-miss when she was swimming at Knockaphort. “It was very, very traumatic to be competing for space on the water with speeding jet skis,” she said.

“It’s a horrific experience to be out in the open water when that’s going on and you don’t know if the people on the jet skis can actually see you. The fact is that there is inappropriate use of jet skis going on regularly. It poses a massive risk and swimmers are having to come out of the water at Knockaphort when jet skis arrives. This has traditionally been a quiet, family-friendly area for those bathing and kayaking.”

Clí acknowledged the recent erection of safety signage at Mountshannon Harbour and she urged people using jet skis to go to the designated area at the main harbour. She also noted comments from Councillor Pat Burke who said that while some jet ski operators behaved responsibly, many did not.

“I know that Clare County Council have referred this on to Waterways Ireland and Gardaí,” she said. “It seems there are no bye-laws applying in Knockaphort, but there is still a code of practice for those using jet skis and I don’t believe that people are aware of it.

“The situation last Sunday night was literally an accident waiting to happen. It’s absolutely frustrating that this is continuing, so I went home and launched the petition.”

The fact that further tourism development is underway for Mountshannon and the wider area has underlined the urgency of the issue. “The Council owns Holy Island and there are massive and very welcome plans afoot,” Clí said. “The area will be inundated with tourist activity and something needs to be done because this situation is very dangerous. Knockaphort is a free-for-all at the moment.”

Last month, Killaloe Coastguard highlighted dangerous jet ski use in the Killaloe-Ballina area. Gardaí also appealed to operators to be mindful of safety. Members of the Nenagh district of Tipperary County Council raised the issue, at their July meeting, after record activity on the lake. They were told the issue was a matter for Waterways Ireland. The wider issue of anti-social behaviour was raised by Councillor Burke at the July meeting of the Killaloe district committee, where officials undertook to redouble efforts to address it.

Waterways Ireland, who are responsible for the Shannon Navigation, which includes Lough Derg, routinely monitor jet ski use. Last year, it was one of five organisations to launch a joint appeal to jet ski operators to remain vigilant at all times for other water users. 

Nationally, the use of jet skis is governed by a Code of Practice for recreational craft. The guidelines, which were revised by the Department of Transport in 2017, urge operators to use “the utmost caution” near other boats and swimmers.

In a statement, Clare County Council noted that Waterways Ireland has responsibility for the Shannon Navigation and the enforcement of relevant legislation. 

“Clare County Council has bye-laws which we enforce relating to jet skis (the Beach bye-laws which are available on our website) in the two swimming areas which are at Mountshannon and Ballycuggeran,” a statement said. “However, these bye-laws only pertain to the swimming areas.”

Fiona McGarry
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Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald.
Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti.
She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway.
If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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