Two nuns drowned on Thursday evening at Inch Strand, in County Kerry, after getting into difficulties while swimming. They were named as Sr Paula Buckley (70) and Sr Imeda Carew (67) of the Presenation Order.
Congregational leader Sr Mary Deane stated "We are all shocked and stunned by this tragedy... there two wonderful women have been a source of inspiration and blessign to many people throughout their lives."
A third nun who had stayed on shore raised the alarm.
Inch is one of Ireland’s best known beauty spots, located between Dingle and Killarney. Despite its name, it is one of the longest beaches in Ireland.
The nuns, one aged 67 from Terenure and one aged 70 from Clondalkin, were said to be from the Presentation Order, in South Dublin, and were on vacation in the area.
Locals say they decided to go swimming in the evening but soon got into difficulty.
The alarm was raised about 7pm on Thursday night. Rescuers brought the women ashore and carried out CPR for over an hour.
It is not known why they got into such difficulties. Locals stated the conditions were fine with no riptides.
"I got there when the women had been pulled ashore and they were carrying out CPR. They didn't have a defibrillator at hand but someone was coming up with one from a village four miles up the road," Mahmood Hussain, owner of Sammy's restaurant located on the beach told the Irish Independent.
"But an ambulance arrived quite quickly so I'm not sure if it was used in the end.
"I understand they were nuns but they were in their swimming gear when they were recovered from the water. It seems they simply got into difficulty but no-one is sure why.
"My restaurant is located directly on the beach, but there were just a few people around at the time."
A Coast Guard spokesman said the women were in a "touch and go" condition when rescued.
"Both women were swimming at the time. CPR was carried out for over an hour on the beach," he said.
"We don't know how long they were out swimming before getting into trouble."
"There were two ambulances at the scene and the Coast Guard helicopter," a local man told the Irish Independent.
"Someone who works in the area confirmed to me that both ladies were nuns. He said they were struggling in the water a long time before help arrived."
"Conditions were very good at the time. There was no rip tide or anything like that and the seas were calm," said a Valentia Coast Guard spokesman.