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Naturist Stephen Bolton during a recent trip to a West Cork beach. He says that with naturism there needs to be a certain level of privacy. Picture: David Hegarty
Naturist Stephen Bolton during a recent trip to a West Cork beach. He says that with naturism there needs to be a certain level of privacy. Picture: David Hegarty
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Naturists: Cork could be Ireland's 'nude capital'

NATURISTS are calling on politicians to make Cork Ireland’s “nude capital” in a move they say will greatly boost our tourist economy.

Stephen Bolton, a spokesperson for the Irish Naturist Association, said they had previously lobbied politicians in Dublin in the hope of introducing signs for historically renowned naturist beaches. However, their requests were shut down amid objections from local businesses.

Stephen now hopes that Cork will live up to its name as a “rebel county” by putting naturism on the map.

New Irish laws, similar to those in the UK, recently loosened restrictions on public nudity. This means that the act of exposing oneself is not illegal unless it causes distress to another person.

While there are currently no officially designated nude beaches in Cork, Stephen says there are a number of beaches in West Cork that have been known to attract nude bathers. They include the eastern and western sides of Clonakilty Bay, Dunowen, Dunny Cove, Sandscove, and Prison Cove in Glandore.

Stephen pointed out that signage in these type of areas would not only serve as a warning to those offended by nudity but attract more tourists as well.

“Dublin failed in that regard but Cork has an open attitude,” he said. “A lot of the time politicians tend to do what they’re told by business owners. These spots in Cork are local knowledge but signs would highlight them for tourists. These beaches have been here for decades, maybe even centuries. This will just highlight what makes them unique.”

A number of Cork leisure centres have facilitated bookings for the group’s private naked swims. However, Stephen said that many business owners are still coming around to the idea.

“There are certain places that wanted to accommodate us but couldn’t due to a glazed wall that allowed passers-by to see in. With naturism you need to have a certain level of privacy. You’ll have companies who are afraid to open their doors for the first time. The misconception is that it might be undesirable or creepy when in actual fact it’s just people going for swims who don’t have a costume. There are as many closed-minded people as there are open-minded ones. Nonetheless, events like the World Naked Bike Ride in Cork show just how accepting Cork people are of nudity. Spectators are being greeted with nothing but smiles as people ride bikes naked in the middle of the day. There is a change in the air and people are becoming more understanding.”

He spoke about the unifying effect of naturism.

“When you’re stripped down you don’t know the difference between the millionaire from the student. We have a good few members from Cork who don’t practise here because they don’t know anyone who would be tolerant towards them.”

He discussed the potential benefits to Cork’s tourist economy. “You see it in Spain a lot. Businesses pop up immediately because you are offering something different. There are tens of thousands of members in the International Naturist Federation which means more money for our tourist economy. Attracting the “naked euro” in your locality is “win win” and could turn a surviving business into a thriving business.”

Stephen explained the appeal of naturism and why it takes many forms.

“The shedding of your clothes is the shedding of your hang-ups. You are shedding the idea of a perfect body image and putting aside the shame that comes with fashion and Instagram nonsense. There are people who might not be naturists in a conventional sense but who enjoy being naked around the house or with their roommates.”

To find out more about the Irish Naturist Association visit irishnaturism.org.