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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Councillors back review of water safety across Mid & East Antrim

Lake at the Ecos Nature Park in Ballymena.

Lake at the Ecos Nature Park in Ballymena. Image: Peter Hayes

Mid and East Antrim councillors have backed a motion for a review of water safety in the borough.

The motion comes after coroner Anne Louise Toal called for local authorities to review water safety measures following the tragic deaths of Reuven Simon and Joseph Sebastian at Lough Enagh in County Londonderry.

In her report, the coroner outlined several safety measures taken by Derry and Strabane District Council to improve water safety. These included commissioning a water safety review, the erection of warning signage, an education programme and a social media campaign.

According to Royal Life-Saving Society statistics relating to 2022, a total of 226 people in the UK, including eight in Northern Ireland, died as a result of accidental water-related incidents.

Proposing the motion, Braid Ulster Unionist Councillor Alan Barr said:

“Sadly Mid and East Antrim is not without its drowning tragedies. We do not need any more.

“Therefore, we call on this council to engage with the relevant statutory and voluntary bodies to promote and educate residents on water safety and request council officers to conduct a water safety review within Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.”

Larne Lough Alliance Cllr Maeve Donnelly said the motion was “very important”.

She told the meeting how she had been caught in a rip current whilst body boarding on holiday in Donegal. “It was extremely scary and I had to be rescued. There should be more education in this area.”

She further commented after the meeting:

“I was body boarding with friends and suddenly found myself being swept out to sea. It was very frightening. We were calling for help and no-one could hear us over the waves.

“I had no idea how to get out of it and had to be saved by some passing surfers. Now I know how to deal with a rip tide and if it ever happened again, I could cope.

“I don’t think we as a community have enough awareness of the potential dangers in the sea.”

Seconding the motion, Knockagh Ulster Unionist Alderman Andrew Wilson said that education around water safety is “key”.

He recalled incidents at the River Bann and River Maine in Ballymena and Woodburn Reservoir, in Carrickfergus, adding that relevant authorities such as NI Water, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and the Policing and Community Safety Partnership have a role to play in education, stating that “preventative action” could save one life.

Coast Road DUP Cllr Andrew Clarke suggested the Coastguard could provide information with regard to appropriate life-saving equipment.

Larne Lough Ulster Unionist Cllr Roy Beggs said there are Ballygally and Browns Bay beaches in the Larne area where it would be appropriate to review water safety as well as Inver River and Killylane Reservoir.

Braid Sinn Fein Cllr Archie Rae commented:

“We should do all we can to promote water safety issues in our borough.”

Larne Lough Alliance Ald Robert Logan noted as well as being bounded by coast, Mid and East Antrim has a number of inland waterways.

Braid TUV Cllr Matthew Warwick, who said he is a keen angler, asked for children in early years education to be included.

Braid DUP Cllr William McCaughey asked for water safety to be included as part of council-run swimming lessons.

Operations director Philip Thompson said the council has carried out a review of water safety in the borough previously but noted the importance of keeping it “at the forefront of people’s attention”.


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