Taoiseach among scores of Christmas Day dippers

The Taoiseach was among scores of brave swimmers who enjoyed a bracing start to Christmas Day with a dip in the sea.

Leo Varadkar, accompanied by his partner Matthew Barrett, was smiling as he emerged from the sea at the Forty Foot diving spot at Sandycove in Dublin.

He said it was a nice way to start the day, adding that he planned to visit some of the public sector staff working on Christmas Day in hospitals and fire stations later in the day.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Members of the Donaghadee Chunky Dunkers take part in a Christmas Day swim in the Co Down town (Rebecca Black/PA)</figcaption>
Members of the Donaghadee Chunky Dunkers take part in a Christmas Day swim in the Co Down town (Rebecca Black/PA)

While Mr Varadkar said it was his third time enjoying a seasonal dip, others taking to the sea were more frequent regulars.

There was a steady stream of people at the Forty Foot throughout the morning.

In Cork, the annual Danny Crowley Christmas swim in aid of the Mercy Hospital took place at Myrtleville.

Across the border in Donaghadee, Co Down, a group who swim every day of the year, assembled on the slipway at 10.30am.

With the water temperature measuring a fresh 8.5C (47.3F), there were shrieks and chuckles as dozens entered the water.

Martin Strain, from the Donaghadee Chunky Dunkers, said the seasonal swim was one of 12 sponsored dips raising money for charity.

“We go in every day, 365 days of the year, unless it’s not safe,” he said.

“There’s a buzz about this time of year, this is part of our 12 swims of Christmas, so we build up to this and then it goes right to New Year’s Day, which is the final of our 12 sponsored swims for charity.”

Mr Strain said he has found daily sea swims to be beneficial for both his physical and mental health.

“It’s such an empowering thing, such a liberating thing, it’s life-affirming. It really has changed a lot of people’s lives through their mental health,” he said.

“Personally, I struggled with really bad mental health issues for a very long time and, whilst this hasn’t been a panacea, it has certainly helped my mental health.”

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