Forty Foot swimmers’ club may disband over litigation fears

Sandycove Bathers’ Association has maintained area since the 1880s

Swimmers dive into the Forty Foot on Christmas Day, 1971.  Photograph: Dermot O’Shea

Swimmers dive into the Forty Foot on Christmas Day, 1971. Photograph: Dermot O’Shea

 

If the ghost of Joyce’s “stately plump Buck Mulligan” is still swimming at Dublin Bay’s Forty Foot, it may not be in the company of the Sandycove Bathers’ Association for much longer.

The club, which has faithfully maintained the south Dublin bathing spot since the late 1880s, is to meet in a fortnight to vote on its dissolution.

Potential exposure of the club’s members to litigation is the main reason for the move, after its insurer said it could not continue to provide cover.

Some 50 club members who attended an extraordinary general meeting on Thursday night agreed to convene in two weeks’ time, as per club rules, to vote on a motion to disband.

President of the association Fred Espey, who has been swimming at the Forty Foot for 70 years, said he was saddened by the situation, but that the club could not continue without insurance cover.

“We have a lot of dedicated people who swim, make tea on a gas ring, chat and sort out the world’s problems – or try to – on a daily basis,” he said. “The beauty of it is that you can swim at all stages of the tide.”

The insurer withdrew after an insurance claim, worth €7,000, taken by a member of the public against it and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

Thursday’s meeting heard a lengthy legal opinion that outlined the club’s options.

The opinion referred to the substantial settlement paid out by insurers in 2004 to a swimmer who was not a member of the club and who sustained serious injuries after striking a rock while diving at the Forty Foot.

The High Court judgment in this case must be considered as a clear “warning bell” about future liability, the opinion stated.

The court’s preliminary finding had been that Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council was 80 per cent responsible, and the Sandycove Bathers’ Association 20 per cent responsible, for the accident.

Mr Espey said the association intended to hand back its lease to the bathing area, and hoped that the county council would take over maintenance.