Anyone for a dip in the nip?
The Irish Naturist Association is calling on local authorities to designate areas for nudist swimmers this summer – but are Irish beach-goers ready for it?
PERHAPS IF God had wanted Irish people to be naturists, he would have given us more sun and less physical insecurity. As it is, baring all in public places is illegal in Ireland and there are no designated nudist beaches or official naturist areas. But could that all be about to change as we finally strip away our national shyness? An as yet unpublished study commissioned by the Irish Naturist Association offers a curious snapshot of public attitudes towards baring all in Ireland.
Carried out by Benchmarking Consultants, the results show that 88 per cent of Irish people would consider using naturist facilities if they existed here while 82 per cent of those surveyed would support naturism being officially recognised.
Pat Gallagher, spokesman for the Irish Naturist Association, says the results are in line with changing attitudes in Ireland witnessed by his members. Twenty years ago, not as many Irish people encountered nudist areas he argues, but since then, as holidaying on the continent has increased, attitudes have altered.
“It’s getting easier for naturists at the moment. I think attitudes have softened,” he says. “Back when my wife and I joined the Irish Naturist Association in 1983, you had to be very secretive about it. Now, it’s more common. For example, you had the artist Spencer Tunick in Ireland and thousands of people took their clothes off [for his photographs]. We’re much more relaxed about the naked body nowadays.”
Gallagher and his fellow naturists are now calling for certain local authorities to designate areas for nudist swimmers this summer. He argues that Ireland could benefit from overseas nudist tourists coming here, while at the same time cater for any domestic tourists who’d like to take a dip in the nip.
“We’ve had a positive response from Kerry County Council, who said they don’t have anything against the idea and are reviewing the situation,” he says. “Our survey has pointed to the fact that if there were naturist facilities in Ireland, then people here would consider using them.”
Gallagher says that across Europe, the naked traveller is well catered for in countries such as France, Spain and Portugal, with parks and beaches given over to nudist holidaymakers.
“The closest thing we have here in Ireland is when individual clubs organise their own events, such as ours. There is one swimming pool in Dublin that rents use to a club, but in Germany, for instance, municipal pools have allocated times for naturist swimming.”
Indeed, most Friday evenings for the past 30 years Club Aquarius has rented a swimming pool in south Dublin for an hour. Up to 40 active members join the weekly swim, leaving all of their clothes in the changing room, in what is promoted as a family-friendly event.
Eamonn, who along with his wife, Brenda, is a committed naturist, takes part in the swim most weeks and helps run the club. The club encourages couples and families to join, and it is run on a voluntary basis. “Most people have encountered nudist beaches at some point in their lives now,” says Eamonn, “but it was a no-no in Ireland when we started first. People had been brainwashed into thinking there was something wrong with the human body.”
Eamonn says the club has never encountered any local objection to their weekly swim, and he is hopeful that designated outdoor areas can be provided for the club in the near future. His own children used to take part in the weekly swim, but now that they have grown up, he admits they are slightly embarrassed to join in.
“The kids are older now so don’t take part, although I know full well they go on nudist beaches when they are away! I’ve never experienced any hassle. You used to hear stories years ago that you’d have people climbing onto the roof of the pool to look at the ‘nudie swimmers’. Thank God we’ve moved on a bit as a country since then.”