The rise of the two German discount giants Lidl and Aldi, and the rise in temperatures has led to a new craze in Dublin – canal diving in wetsuits.
The Royal and Grand canals are famous for many things but diving is not one of them.
The "stilly, greeny" waters at the heart of summer, as the poet Patrick Kavanagh described them, are still "greeny" but they are far from "stilly" as dozens of youngsters have taken to the canals to cool off over the past few days.
The advent of the wetsuits is a recent phenomenon. They can be bought for as little as €50 at discount stores,putting them in reach of the average cash-strapped teenager.
They serve a dual purpose: keeping out the cold of the icy canals and helping to protect against the bugs that inevitably arise in an urban waterway.
However the weather is so good many swimmers don’t bother with wetsuits.
Yesterday, the epicentre for this trend was a stretch of the Grand Canal from the Suir Road bridge to Goldenbridge. It also happens in the docklands.
Jumping from bridges
Dozens of youngsters jumped in from bridges and the locks into the canal. Some did back flips and twists and turns that would give any health and safety officer a conniption.
"If you fall wrong it catches your impact," says Ryan Rooney (15) before he dived off the Suir Road bridge in his wetsuit.
The long-term closure of Ballyfermot Sports and Fitness Centre means there is no local pool to go to.
Darragh Freeman (13) said: “We’re here to just swim for the summer because we don’t have any pools. This is basically the only pool we can get.”
While the youngsters revelled in the good weather at one end of the city, a row has erupted over the decision by Dublin City Council to close one of the most popular beaches to traffic.
Dollymount Strand has been closed to vehicles on the advice of gardaí because emergency vehicles could not get access to a woman who was hit by a car while lying on the beach recently.
Dublin City Council said: “This was the culmination of a number of incidents where the 24-hour access to the beach from the causeway has resulted in serious anti-social activity and concern for public safety.”
Driving on the beach
The decision has gone down badly with many residents who have complained that it will make access to the beach much more difficult for people with limited mobility and those with young families.
Local TD Tommy Broughan said that residents had not been consulted about the decision.
“Families have been gaining access to the beach using their cars for generations without any reported incidents,” he said. “I would urge the council to urgently review the decision.”