A good nudes story from Leitrim
A HONEYMOONING couple could barely conceal their delight as they landed in a small west of Ireland town along with 100 other naturists.
The unlikely setting of the small woodland town of Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim is the top destination for nudists from all over the world this weekend.
The Lough Allen Hotel is playing host to the 'International Naturist Congress', with naturists from over 20 countries in attendance.
New Zealand natives Nick and Wendy Lowe are honeymooning at the event and, with the sun shining down on the party, they have wasted no time in getting to know their fellow guests.
"It's like a big family, because you have already got something in common. There is not the same ice-breaking as when you are sitting in a bar or something," said Wendy (51).
The wedding in January of last year was a 'clothing optional' affair and Wendy said the lifestyle comes naturally to the pair. "Nick does a lot of kayaking, running and cycling. He does as much of that naked as he can and I garden naked. It is our life. It is not something we do, it is what we are. We are nudists," she said.
The first gathering of its kind on these shores, the congress aims to promote "touristic naturism" - despite the fact that public nudity remains illegal in Ireland and there are no officially designated nudist areas.
Mick Ayers, vice-president of the International Naturist Federation, said Ireland was missing out on the growing worldwide market for naturist tourism.
"Ireland, with its long coastline, has many secluded beaches which would be perfect for naturists," he said.
He said naturists were "high-spending, environmentally-conscious tourists" who would flock to the country if proper facilities were available.
Many of the delegates are planning on a prolonged stay in the area and a spokeswoman for Failte Ireland said the congress could contribute around €150,000 to the local economy.
Eamonn, membership secretary of Aquarius, a Leinster-based naturist association, said he would love to see Irish laws changed to bring us in line with the "far more relaxed attitude" of Europe.
Eamonn, who didn't want his surname published, said the hotel had agreed to set facilities aside at certain times for the delegates.
"We will make the most of it. Generally speaking, naturists are a very nice group of people. They are very trusting, I mean otherwise you are not going to go nude with them," he said.
He said any relaxing of the laws here will "probably have to be brought in through Europe".
"It has been brought up before a number of justice ministers and they usually just toss it aside, so we are hoping it can be standardised throughout the EU area," he said.
"Ideally, you would have beaches with a sign on them saying: 'Beyond this point nudity is allowed'. The public would be warned so they wouldn't be getting offended," he said.
The weekend will be topped off by a gala dinner on Saturday night and Wendy said she was hoping it would be a clothing-optional affair.
"I prefer to wear as little as possible when I can, so if anybody else is naked then I'll get naked, I'm sure Nick will join me and we'll go from there," she said.
Despite the laws banning nudity, the Irish Naturist Association's website lists a number of beaches where nudity is "tolerated" - although discretion is advised.
Eamonn said there are beaches all over the country where "local knowledge" will tell you if it is acceptable to strip off.