Five surfers saved more than 40 lives at Lahinch, Seanad told

Volunteers ‘afraid to leave beach for fear people would die’ in absence of lifeguards

A group of surfers acting in a voluntary capacity saved more than 40 lives at Lahinch beach in Co Clare when no lifeguards were on duty, it has been claimed.

Green Party Senator Róisín Garvey said there were thousand of people at the beach on Sunday and the five surfers “could not leave the beach because they were afraid people would die.

“They were putting people on their surf boards and bringing them in from the water,” and they did this voluntarily, she said.

“There were two-year-olds missing and one guy nearly had a heart attack,” she added.


Speaking in the Seanad Ms Garvey paid tribute to the five men whom she named as Ben Bennett, Mike Paige, Aaron McGettigan, Ollie O’Flaherty and Richard Brangwyn.

The Co Clare-based Senator said “they put their lives at risk to save over 40 people yesterday at a beach in Lahinch. There were zero lifeguards on duty.”

“We knew last weekend was going to be sunny and that thousands would flock to the beaches. This is our second summer in lockdown so we should have figured this out by now,” she said. “We haven’t nailed it. We have failed.”

“It’s not fair to ordinary civilians and surfers that they would be afraid to leave the beach in case somebody drowns if they are not there to keep an eye on them.

“It is a serious issue and it is ongoing. We cannot wait until somebody dies to realise it is serious,” she said.

Replying for the Government, acting Seanad leader Lisa Chambers said “local authorities must get their act together. It’s not acceptable that five local volunteers, who should have been enjoying their day surfing, were rescuing people from the water.”

Clare County Council said in a statement that lifeguard services are due to start in the county next weekend for weekends in June with a full-time service from Monday June 28th.

“However in light of the level of activity at beach locations in County Clare this weekend Clare County Council intends to increase the lifeguard services, particularly at busier beaches, from next weekend where lifeguards are available for weekdays also.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times