A Christmas Day swim at the diving boards on Lough Owel (file pic).

€500,000 funding for outdoor swimming projects

Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy Hildegarde Naughton has today announced a new €500,000 funding scheme for outdoor swimming facilities across Ireland.

The Healthy Ireland initiative recognises the growth in popularity of outdoor swimming in recent years, and the many health benefits associated with it.

Grants of up to €30,000 will be awarded for projects that enable broader participation in outdoor swimming, such as improving access, developing and enhancing changing facilities and procuring equipment to assist people with disabilities.

The funding will be administered by Sport Ireland on behalf of the Department of Health. Applications open from tomorrow Friday 5 April to Friday 17 May, in order to facilitate the commencement of works ahead of the summer season.

Minister Naughton said: “The popularity of outdoor swimming really has grown in recent years, and as a regular swimmer, I’m keenly aware of its many benefits for our physical and mental wellbeing.

“With a view to embracing the growing appetite for outdoor swimming across the country, I was delighted to secure €500,000 in funding as an initial phase of this new scheme in Budget 2024.

“This funding will support improvements that will make Ireland’s rich network of outdoor bathing spots more accessible to more people. Our ambition is to boost opportunities for people of all ages to come together to enjoy physical activity.

“Swimming along our wonderful beaches and beautiful lakes is not only good for body and mind, it also enhances the social fabric of our communities around the country.

“I am calling on all outdoor swimming enthusiasts, and our Local Sports Partnerships, to have a think about where in their locality might benefit from the delivery of a changing shelter, steps or handrails into the water, and to apply for funding as part of this new scheme.

“I am really excited to see successful projects active and ready for use across Ireland as early as this summer.”

The CEO of Sport Ireland, Una May, said: “The minister’s announcement is hugely welcomed by Sport Ireland ahead of the publication of Ireland’s first National Swimming Strategy later this year. Participation in sport and physical activity is hugely important for the physical and mental wellbeing of our population.

“Open Water swimming overcomes many geographic and economic barriers, and through the Local Sports Partnerships and the local authorities, we will work with Swim Ireland and Healthy Ireland to increase the use of river, lake and sea swimming locations across the country.”

Swim Ireland CEO, Sarah Keane, said: “I would like to thank the minister for her commitment to the National Swimming Strategy, through immediate action, by providing this funding support to the local authorities and Local Sports Partnerships.

“Swim Ireland is delighted to work with them and Sport Ireland to provide guidance and direction as to what might assist in increasing open water participation, and how to make it more accessible. It is great to live in a country where we have access to such incredible outdoor spaces, and where public health and wellbeing is a central consideration in a ministerial portfolio.”

Chief medical officer, Professor Breda Smyth, said: “Outdoor swimming has many physical and mental health benefits, increasing cardiovascular fitness, strengthening immune systems, reducing blood pressure and stress levels and promoting improved sleep.

“I’m delighted that Healthy Ireland funding will help to make swimming more inclusive and accessible in locations around the country, adding to the range of supports that have been developed in recent years with Sport Ireland.

“These efforts are an important step in our aim of achieving the Healthy Ireland vision of a more active Ireland and ultimately a healthier population.”

The application process

Applications for Healthy Ireland’s Outdoor Swimming Infrastructure Fund can be made here.

Local Sports Partnerships (LSPs) are eligible to apply for Healthy Ireland’s Outdoor Swimming Infrastructure Fund. Facilitated by Sport Ireland, LSPs will work closely with local authorities and local swimming clubs and groups to identify the most suitable swim zones in their locality for support under this scheme, which opens for applications on 5 April and closes on 17 May.