Swim Ireland has launched a new participation strategy which aims to provide 5,000 additional swim instructors, 60,000 participants on participation programmes with Local Sports Partnerships and 100,000 opportunities to learn to swim in its new pilot pop up pool scheme.

It has set out four strategic objectives ‘to shape and support a culture that encourages, supports, and empowers everyone in Ireland to actively enjoy swimming and the aquatics indoors and outdoors.’

Swimming Places; Swimming People; Swimming Programmes and Swimming Partners each has four or five key elements which will be addressed over the course of the strategy from now until 2026.

The targets set are based on research conducted in 2021 by Sport Ireland’s Research and Innovation team using population projection statistics and pooled secondary analysis data from the Irish Sports Monitor between 2013 and 2019.

This highlighted that in 2021 the population of people 16 years of age or older in Ireland was 4 million. Of this, approximately 335,000 people swam at least once in the last week which represents 8.4% of the Irish population 16 years of age or older.

It found that the profile of swimmers in Ireland is dominated by the older age groups as people 34 years of age or older represent 67.6% of the people who swim. The 35 – 44 age cohort represents one in every four swimmers and accounts for approximately 80,000 people. This is followed by 45-54 (56,000), 25-34 (56,000), 16 -24 (50,000), 55-64 (46,000) and finally 65+ (36,000).

C.S.O population projections demonstrate that the population of Ireland is consistently increasing and ageing for the next thirty years (2021 – 2051). In the scenario that the participation rates from the pooled Irish Sports Monitor data are maintained across all
age groups for the next decade the number of swimmers would increase from 335,000 in 2021 to circa 370,000 in 2031.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the way people take part in swimming. The closure of pools during the first period of the pandemic decimated participation in swimming. Young people have suffered the most as over 500,000 young people missed out on the opportunity to learn to swim as part of the learn to swim programmes.

As such an important life skill this is central to the context in which the participation strategy has been published.

“We have a vision as an island of swimmers,” said Swim Ireland CEO Sarah Keane. “What we are looking to do is to redefine how most people see swimming.”

“It is incredibly popular as a life skill and as a sport but sometimes it can be defined narrowly in terms of being competitive.”

“What we saying is that if you are physically active and you enjoy being in the water, whether it is for a dip indoors or outdoors, then you are a swimmer.”

“We are looking at creating more opportunities through pop-up pools and semi-permanent structures as well as in sea swimming. It is a really exciting time for Swim Ireland and for all swimmers.”


Download the full strategy here.


Sport for Business Perspective:

Swimming is accessible to all and is one of our most popular as well as most important ways of being physically active.  Putting in place a plan to make sure that the facilities and the support structures match the demands of an island nation is smart and important.




Sport for Business Partners