GAA teams up with the RNLI for ‘Respect the Water’ campaign

Each year 133 people drown in Ireland. Sporting communities can play a major role in preventing deaths from drowning.

The RNLI and the GAA are joining forces in South Donegal for the charity’s ‘Respect the Water’ campaign, which aims to reduce the number of people who lose their lives through drowning.

The partnership was launched in Croke Park recently on a national level, with a host of RNLI lifeboat volunteers and GAA players and supporters from around the county attending. The RNLI now wants to work with GAA clubs and communities locally, throughout the summer, to provide life-saving information.   

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Photo: RNLI & GAA Campaign: (L-R Michael McMahon (Realt na Mara), Brian McEniff (Chairman Realt Na Mara), Diarmaid McInerney (Aodh Ruadh CLG and Bundoran RNLI Crew), Chris Fox (Bundoran RNLI), Alan Russell (Realt Na Mara Senior team), Philip McGlynn (Treasurer), Oisin Cassidy (Bundoran RNLI) & Gerry Breslin (Club Secretary)
Photo: Courtesy RNLI Bundoran

Launching the partnership in Gaelic Park Bundoran, Chris Fox and Oisin Cassidy from Bundoran RNLI and members of both Realt Na Mara (Bundoran) and Aodh Ruadh (Ballyshannon) GAA are keen to get the campaign going and are looking for clubs and groups who are interested in learning more to get in touch and see how they can get the message out and reach people who may not be aware of the dangers of drowning.

The ‘Respect the Water’ campaign will be supported through the GAA’s Healthy Clubs initiative and the wider club network. Many GAA clubs are based in coastal communities or near inland waters or rivers and their location makes them ideally placed for sharing information and raising awareness of the causes of drowning and how to prevent it.

As well as sharing key safety messages with fans and supporters at events and matches the RNLI are keen to visit clubs and community groups to talk about drowning prevention and how to keep safe and enjoy the water.  The Respect the Water roadshow and speakers can deliver talks and demonstrations for all ages, from youth groups to clubs and at club events.


Commenting on the partnership Shane Smyth of Bundoran RNLI said, ‘Drowning shatters communities and lifeboat crews have seen the devastation it brings families and loved ones. We believe that many of these deaths are preventable and we need to work with other organisations who want to keep their communities safe. Like a lifeboat station, a GAA club is at the heart of community life. Sporting communities can play a major role in preventing deaths by drowning. Through their approach to the sport and their passion they are well placed to be lifesavers.’

Adding their support to the campaign, Brian McEniff, Chair of Realt Na Mara GAA said, ‘‘The RNLI share a lot of the same values of community activity and volunteerism that we have in the GAA. Based in communities with players and supporters of all ages, we have a real opportunity to get an important message out. ‘Respect the Water’ is a perfect fit for us and we look forward to working with the RNLI and hopefully save lives. ’ 

The RNLI will work with the GAA and their volunteers in local communities to promote the campaign and share key safety messages and advice. Anyone looking for more information can email or contact their nearest lifeboat station or club.

The RNLI have advised that there are things that people can do to avoid getting into difficulty or to prepare themselves if something happens and they end up in trouble.  

Bundoran RNLI & Crew
Bundoran RNLI Lifeboat Station. (Photo: Declan Keogh / Emergency Times)

Always swim at a lifeguarded beach were possible.
Go to a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags.
Before going into the sea, consider your ability and the conditions; swimming in the sea is very different to swimming in a pool.
When you enter the water, take time to acclimatise to the temperature.
Have someone watching you from the beach and make sure they are able to call for help.

When you are near open water, keep away from the edge, stick to designated paths and look out for safety signs.
Keep clear of uneven, unstable or slippery ground.
Avoid walking alone or at night, and always carry a means of calling for help.
If you are exploring the coastline, always get local advice on the tide to make sure you don’t get cut off.

Carry a means of calling for help in case you do end up in trouble.
Wear an appropriate flotation device, such as a lifejacket or buoyancy aid – it could save your life.
If you are going out alone, tell someone ashore your plans and what time you expect to be back.

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