Campaign group seeks public meeting on NLC swim lessons

June 1, 2015

A group set up to campaign for the reinstatement of private swim schools at Newry Swimming Pool has called on Councillors who voted to remove the private service to hold a public meeting and debate in on the issue.

‘Save Our Swim Schools’ comprises members from Swimfit and Elsol who had been providing private swimming lessons at Newry pool for the past thirty years before their licenses were revoked in February this year. As a result, 25 staff who worked with the school, including swim teachers, lifeguards and front desk workers, lost their jobs.

The move was met with widespread public condemnation and supporters of the private swim schools, including parents of disabled children who had been taught to swim by Swimfit and Elsol took part in protests urging the Council to reconsider.  Concerns have also been raised as to how the new Council arrangements can possibly meet the public demand for the service.

In a letter to this newspaper, spokesperson for Save Our Swim Schools, Jane Curran, says more than 600 children are currently on a waiting list for swimming lessons and she has called for a public debate to be held in Newry Town Hall to address the issue.

“The councillors who justified this demolition of successful swimming lessons and lifesaving skills promised and pledged to the public that these lessons would be quickly replaced by a new programme delivered by the council. The reality is that this has been a complete public embarrassment and disaster. Over 600 children and their parents are now waiting for that phone call to confirm the date and time when their lessons will begin which will not happen because this new programme and the council swimming teachers structure will never meet the demand,” Mrs Curran stated.

When previously the pool was opened for private lessons on Saturday and Sunday evenings, it is now closed during these times, depriving hundreds of children of the opportunity to attend lessons, she said.

Mrs Curran says all councillors are being contacted by the campaign group calling for the public meeting to take place and Council officials have been invited to attend an Active Health Committee meeting to be held tonight (Monday) where they will be presented with “the facts of the issue”.

Criticising the Council’s stance on the private swim lessons, the letter stated: “Unfortunately the centre of excellence you promised us in Newry’s new Leisure Centre does not exist and your removal of the private swimming lessons has now created a public safety issue.

“It is evident from recent newspaper articles and social media feedback that the public are losing confidence in your ability to deal with this issue and we are now asking that you hold a public meeting in Newry Town Hall to inform us how you and the council officials intend to service the demand for much needed lifesaving swimming lessons for all our children.”

The Examiner contacted Newry, Mourne and Down District Council for a response to the issues raised by Save Our Swim Schools but, at the time of going to press, had not received a reply.