Monday 11 December 2017

No chickens here as cold conditions braved for charity swim

Kevin Keane

The country's most famous bridge was transformed into an unlikely diving arena last night as dozens of swimmers plunged into the River Liffey in the centre of Dublin.

Dressed in togs and plastic caps, more than 50 swimmers dived from O'Connell Bridge into the murky waters below to raise money for cystic fibrosis sufferers.

The annual spectacle dates back 27 years and was started by Dubliner Robert Clarke, who has lost three of his four children to the disease.

"I made a vow that if the fourth one lived I'd swim in the Liffey every year and he's still alive.

"He's 27 years old now," Mr Clarke told the Irish Independent last night, as he shook a collection tin on O'Connell Bridge dressed in a bright yellow chicken suit.

"A friend of ours lost five children to cystic fibrosis," a passerby in a suit said as he forced a handful of change into the collection tin.

Mr Clarke then handed the tin to another volunteer and was on the ledge of the bridge, ready to take the plunge, chicken suit and all.

Like Mr Clarke, 56-year-old Larry Mooney has taken part in every swim since they began in 1984.

He said the river had got cleaner since then. "Ah, it's not too bad; they've cleaned it up a good bit."

Like many of the hardy souls present last night, Mr Mooney swims "hail, rain or snow" and claimed the secret of surviving the cold was to "not think about it".

According to Ted Cantwell, the worst part of the swim from O'Connell bridge to Customs House was the beginning.

"O'Connell bridge is as wide as it is long so it's like a tunnel, it's very dark and a bit scary."

Many onlookers were tourists and they certainly were getting a ringside introduction to Irish craic.

"Why are they jumping into the river?" an amused Anna from Georgia asked.

French students Marine and Pauline said they thought the swimmers were "crazy people".

Irish Independent

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