WITH 2009 firmly put behind him, Minister Micheal Martin bravely dipped his toes into icy water to mark the beginning of 2010.
After a heated year at the Cabinet table, the Foreign Affairs Minister plunged into freezing seas at Courtmacsherry, Co Cork for the annual charity swim.
More than 150 people turned out in bright sunshine to watch around 25 hardy swimmers take the brief plunge in aid of the local RNLI lifeboat service. The minister has a holiday home in the village and has been taking part in the fundraiser for a number of years.
Swimmers also braved sub-zero conditions at Marble Hill in Co Donegal yesterday for the 34th annual swim in aid of the Donegal Hospice.
The annual swim at Culdaff in Co Donegal was also held yesterday.
But a host of other events were cancelled yesterday due to the big freeze, with the public urged to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel.
The New Year's Day race meeting at Fairyhouse was one of the biggest casualties and the annual festive charity dip in Arklow, Co Wicklow, was also called off.
Full-time lifeboat mechanic Micheal Hurley said he was happy with the number of people who had turned out at Courtmacsherry, especially considering the dangerous driving conditions.
"The roads are very frozen so a lot of people walked down. People see with all the recent floods how valuable the emergency services are so they are supporting us very well," he said.
Mr Hurley added that it costs more than €100,000 a year to run the lifeboat, with the fuel bill alone topping €20,000. This year the vessel is due to be sent to the UK for a re-fit which will set the RNLI back an estimated €300,000.
"We get called out between 12 and 20 times a year. Courtmacsherry is a very important area for shipping and yachting with its location on the edge of Cork Harbour.
"We have two full-time crew and 23 volunteers, but unlike some other lifeboat stations we are lucky in that we never have trouble getting people to join our panel, there's actually a waiting list to join the lifeboat team," he said.