Government recognises dive clubs’ tourism role
The Government has recognised that scuba diving clubs and dive centres form part of the national tourism infrastructure in promoting Ireland’s rich dive sites.
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan stated recently that the Government was committed to developing its archive of wrecks in Irish waters. “With the support of responsible dive centres and local dive clubs, which form a key part of our tourism infrastructure, these wrecks can be explored now and into the distant future by visitors from home and abroad.”
The Minister made his comments in the foreword to a recently launched Government publication, Warships, U-boats and Liners, which highlights 60 wreck sites in Irish waters and provides precise information on them using data from the Infomar seabed-mapping project.
Scuba diving is a growing industry and scuba tourists are recognised the potential of colder-water locations like Ireland for the unique and rich underwater features it has, along with its underwater archaeology. The growing scuba infrastructure also means that divers need never be far away from an air fill or from a dive boat and local knowledge.
Local authorities are also beginning to recognise the importance of developing water activities as a means of encouraging adventure tourism. With input from Comhairle Fo-Thuinn (CFT) – the Irish Underwater Council, Mayo County Council is pioneering the development of ‘Blue Ways’ to augment its Green Way walking trails. The Blue Way will list safe and attractive swimming and snorkelling areas along Mayo’s coast, along with lists of local guides.
For CFT, the challenge remains to continue to foster interest and expertise among its members and prospective members in diving and snorkelling. This year the organisation celebrates its 50th anniversary, and looking back over those five decades, it can be seen how scuba diving has developed from being a marginal, almost eccentric activity undertaken by a few mavericks following in Jacques Cousteau’s wake to an activity accessible by anybody of reasonable fitness and confidence in water. We have over 70 clubs affiliated to the Underwater Council, which provides standards, training and a social network for its members. Diving and snorkelling appeals to people with a love of water and our natural heritage, and who want to indulge their sense of adventure, be it in our lakes and rivers or off our coast. Divers recently retrieved Viking-era swords from the River Shannon, near Banagher, and there have been many other such finds over the years. There is also the sense that diving essentially enables you to move freely in an alien environment. If you don’t have $50 million to spare to book a seat on a trip to space, well a tiny fraction of that amount will get you set up to exploring an equally unknown environment that’s right on your doorstep.