Belfast Telegraph

Irish premier among scores of Christmas Day dippers

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was among the plucky swimmers who enjoyed a bracing start to the day from the north coast to the southern reaches.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his partner Matt Barrett (right) take part in the annual Christmas Day swim at the Forty Foot bathing spot in Sandycove Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his partner Matt Barrett (right) take part in the annual Christmas Day swim at the Forty Foot bathing spot in Sandycove Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

By Rebecca Black, PA

Ireland’s premier was among scores of brave swimmers who enjoyed a bracing start to Christmas Day with a dip in the sea.

Leo Varadkar, accompanied by his partner Matthew Barrett, was smiling as he emerged from the sea at the Forty Foot diving spot at Sandycove in Dublin.

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Members of the King Edward’s Bay swimmers in North Shields (Owen Humphreys/PA)

He said it was a nice way to start the day, adding that he planned to visit some of the public sector staff working on Christmas Day in hospitals and fire stations later in the day.

While Mr Varadkar said it was his third time enjoying a seasonal dip, others taking to the sea in both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic were more frequent regulars.

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The Taoiseach posed with fellow swimmers (Niall Carson/PA)

There was a steady stream of people at the Forty Foot throughout the morning.

Across the border in Donaghadee, Co Down, a group who swim every day of the year, assembled on the slipway at 10.30am.

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People take part in the annual Christmas Day swim at the Forty Foot bathing spot (Niall Carson/PA)

With the water temperature measuring a fresh 8.5C (47.3F), there were shrieks and chuckles as dozens entered the water.

Martin Strain, from the Donaghadee Chunky Dunkers, said the seasonal swim was one of 12 sponsored dips raising money for charity.

“We go in every day, 365 days of the year, unless it’s not safe,” he said.

“There’s a buzz about this time of year, this is part of our 12 swims of Christmas, so we build up to this and then it goes right to New Year’s Day, which is the final of our 12 sponsored swims for charity.”

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Members of the Donaghadee Chunky Dunkers take part in a Christmas Day swim in the Co Down town. (Rebecca Black/PA)

Mr Strain said he has found daily sea swims to be beneficial for both his physical and mental health.

“It’s such an empowering thing, such a liberating thing, it’s life-affirming. It really has changed a lot of people’s lives through their mental health,” he said.

“Personally, I struggled with really bad mental health issues for a very long time and, whilst this hasn’t been a panacea, it has certainly helped my mental health.”

PA

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