'It was a bit like being tackled by the Munster front row at full tilt' - Fergus Finlay on dolphin attack

Fergus Finlay attacked by dolphin

Barry Duggan

SWIMMERS and water bathers have being warned to stay away from a dolphin after Bernardos Chief Fergus Finlay was attacked while on holidays.

The former Labour adviser was swimming in the  Aran Islands when he had his formidable encounter with Dusty the Dolphin.

The 65-year-old told the Herald how was in the water around Inis Oirr harbour with his daughter and two grandchildren when the dolphin head-butted him full force in the upper thighs.

The dolphin was known for erratic attacks when she was in Co Clare, and since a move to Inis Oirr last year signs have been put up around the harbour warning swimmers to be careful.

Dr Simon Berrow of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Water Group said swimmers have to be aware of the dangers with dolphins. Warning signs regarding her behaviour have been erected at Inis Oirr.

“It’s hard to know what is going through Dusty’s mind. Is she protecting herself? Does she feel threatened,” Dr Berrow said.

“Suddenly when someone as big as Dusty rams anyone it is going to hurt as she is a big powerful animal. You are talking serious injuries and somebody is going to get seriously hurt.

“People do need to be aware that she is a wild animal and unpredictable and to respect that. When you do see the warning signs, do leave the water straight away and no messing as she is wild animal,” Mr Berrow said.

Mr Finlay said he had been looking forward to a life opportunity to swim with a dolphin.

“Dusty took one long at me and decided she didn’t want anything to do with me so she stared making warning signs which I should have known and should have understood but I misinterpreted.

“She was flapping the water with her tail and swimming around in a circle and then decided she was going to have a go at me.

“She swam straight at me very hard. It was a bit like being tackled by the Munster front row at full tilt. She hit me a right wallop and knocked me off my feet and then kind of backed away to see what would happen next,” he said.

He admitted he did not pay heed to signs posted around the harbour warning bathers and swimmers to leave the water if Dusty started flapping her tail.

“It was my own stupidity I’m afraid. I should have read the signs,” Mr Finlay said on RTE radio.