At last – club allows women to swim, too

by Gazette Reporter
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The long held prohibition of Sandycove Bathers Association excluding women as members has been lifted at last. The female ban was rescinded last week when the club met and voted to change their men-only membership rule for the first time.
Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown county councillors were notified of the historic change last week. In October 2013, councillors had agreed to write to Minister for Finance Michael Noonan to review the old licence agreement between the State and Sandycove Bathers Association which was deemed to be out of date as it was drawn up in 1937.
However, members of the association met on March 3 and decided to repeal their ban on women members.
Honorary secretary of Sandycove Bathers’ Association Frank Mullen said about the association’s change of policy: “We had a meeting and agreed to open it up to all people who donate to the club to become members whether they’re male or female. There was no argument about it. In my opinion and in the opinion of many others in the association, it [the ban on women members] was a Victorian legacy and most people now seem happy about the change.”
When asked if the association’s rules will be changed to accommodate the change, Mullen said: “Whatever has to be done will be done.”
One of the main points of contention for women wishing to swim at the Forty Foot was the lack of a shelter or changing facilities as they could not use the facilities provided for the men-only members of Sandycove Bathers’ Association.
The facilities not available to women included a changing hut and a kitchen facilities hut owned by the association despite the fact that many women paid an annual maintenance fee for the Forty Foot.
This problem was eradicated this year when the council erected a changing facility and shelter for women at Sandycove and this is seen as helpful in oiling the wheels of change to accept women into the swimming club. One of the first female members will be Senator Ivana Bacik.
“I am delighted that the ban has been lifted and look forward to having my Sandycove Bathers’ Association (SBA) membership application formally accepted.
“I think all relevant rules of the SBA will have to be reviewed to ensure that they reflect the change,” said Senator Bacik.
Cllr Niamh Bhreathnach (Lab) said: “It was hard won after a long slog. I reckoned that my motion calling for a change in rules by the members or the Minister would if pursued bring about change.
“I now expect the association to change its own constitution and the licence agreement become a historical reminder of an earlier era.
“I wish the members, old and new, women and men, friends and foe, well.”
Cllr Patricia Stewart (FG) said: “I commend the members of Sandycove Bathers Association for their recent decision to give equal membership to women and men. The Forty Foot is an amenity for everyone to enjoy and gender shouldn’t be an issue.”
Cllr Victor Boyhan (Ind) said: “The Forty Foot bathing place in Sandycove is a fantastic place to swim and should be open to all to swim.
“Any new licence agreement should reflect an open swimming policy.”

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