Three of Ireland’s most popular beaches have been stripped of their coveted Blue Flag status after a dip in water quality.
Brittas Bay North in Co Wicklow, Enniscrone in Co Sligo and Skerries beach in north Dublin all lost out on the sought-after international award this year, it has been announced.
However, with 86 flags issued across the country in the latest prize-giving ceremony, Ireland has gained six since last year overall.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly said the awards were a clear signal of quality and are something to be cherished.
“A blue flag flying at a particular location means that it has achieved excellent water quality to standards set by European and national regulations, and a very high grade across a wide range of other criteria,” he said.
Altogether 81 beaches and five marinas were gifted the award for top-quality bathing.
In Co Cork, Redbarn and Garretstown regained their Blue Flag status while in Wexford, Ballinesker scooped the honour for the first time.
Five beaches that failed to meet with the stringent quality requirements last year because of storms that ravaged the coastline have regained their flags: Bertra and Mulranny in Co Mayo; Rossbeigh in Co Kerry; and Miltown Malbay and Spanish Point in Co Clare.
Another 58 beaches were bestowed with the Green Coast Award, which recognises a clean environment, excellent water quality and natural beauty.
These beaches usually do not qualify for Blue Flag status because they have not got built facilities for visitors.
Bishops Quarter and Seafield in Co Clare and Inchydoney East in Co Cork were all honoured with the Green Coast Award for the first time.
In Co Wexford, Ballyhealy, Ballymoney, Booley Bay, Grange and St Helens Bay also won the accolade.
But Skerries in north Dublin, Rathmullan in Co Donegal, Enniscrone in Co Sligo and Ballycastle in Co Mayo all lost the award this year.