Tributes have been paid to Mary Feeney, a popular Donegal artist who died in a sea swimming accident on the Bangor Coast in Northern Ireland.

Mary Feeney, who was originally from Ardara, died after getting into difficulty in the water on Tuesday.

She had established a career as a landscape artist and moved to Co Down several years ago.

Artist Mary Feeney – photo Fine Art America

A major rescue effort was launched shortly before noon on Tuesday after she got into difficulty while swimming along the coast of Skippingstone Beach.

A regular participant in Bangor’s annual Open House Festival, she had also exhibited her work in galleries across Ireland, the UK and the United States.

Kieran Gilmore, Director of the Open House Festival, said “Like many others, all the team at Open House Festival are shocked and deeply saddened to hear that Mary Feeney tragically lost her life while out swimming at Skippingstone Beach,” he said.

“Mary was a valued and talented artist and teacher. We also know that sea swimming meant a lot to her. Mary will be missed by the local arts, cultural and sea swimming communities here in Bangor.”

Green Party councillor Stephen Dunlop also acts as chair of the Open House Festival.

“Mary was so well known as a strong swimmer and advocate of wild sea swimming. The council is looking to encourage and develop that element of the sea front, but it’s ghastly and unfortunate that such an incident has happened,” he said.

“Our thoughts and feelings go out to the family of Mary, it’s a very sad day. She was part of a very strong community of artists living around Bangor town centre.

“Part of the attraction is being beside the sea, it’s an inspiration and a catalyst for a lot of their art.”

Members of RNLI Bangor extended their sympathies to the family and praised the bravery of one volunteer who had entered the water to rescue Ms Feeney despite turbulent conditions.

Although she was recovered from the water and assessed by paramedics Ms Feeney was declared dead at the scene.

A post on the RNLI Bangor Facebook page said: “Despite the heroic efforts of our volunteer crew, there was little we could do other than move the woman to the shelter of a nearby inlet where she could be attended to by the ambulance service.”

The statement added: “Sadly, the tragic outcome could not be avoided by his actions, and we would implore others to avoid swimming in such dangerous conditions. Rest in Peace.”