More than 830 people were rescued from drowning by lifeguards at bathing sites around the Irish coast last year, with almost half of all such incidents taking place in Kerry.
Irish Water Safety has also reported that lifeguards were involved in preventing more than 18,500 accidents during 2014.
The IWS — the State body that is responsible for the promotion of water safety — recorded a total of 114 drownings last year. It represents a decrease of nine deaths on the previous year when 123 individuals drowned.
According to its latest annual report, IWS figures show that there was a significant decrease in the number of accidental drownings in 2014 — down from 77 last year to 55. However, the number of drownings categorised as suicide increased from 27 to 33.
No cause was determined in the case of 25 deaths by drowning last year, while one death was classified as homicide.
There was also a sharp increase in the number of infants and young children who drowned last year, with six deaths among children aged under 14 years, compared to just one in the previous year.
The highest number of drownings was recorded in the 50-59 years age group, with 26 deaths.
Approximately four out of five deaths by drowning in Ireland last year happened to males.
Dublin accounted for the highest number of drownings with 16 deaths followed by Limerick and Cork (both 13) and Galway (12).
An IWS spokesperson said that each drowning, whether it was accidental, suicide, or of undetermined cause, reflected a preventable tragedy that affected so many lives.
IWS figures show that 347 rescues were carried out by lifeguards in Kerry last year — approximately 48% of all the life-saving incidents that occured in the Republic. Other counties with high levels of rescue incidents were Clare (119), Sligo (99), and Limerick (76).
Irish Water Safety said that the figures on the rescues and preventative actions taken by lifeguards give a clear picture of the effectiveness and value which they contribute to saving lives each year.
In addition, lifeguards also provided first aid to more than 5,700 bathers during 2014 and were involved in 399 incidents where children were reported lost.
IWS chairwoman Breda Collins welcomed the fact that the organisation was provided for the first time last year with a budget of €150,000 that was ring-fenced for targeting specific at-risk groups.
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