One of Ireland's best-known beaches has lost its Blue Flag status for 2019.
Bundoran Beach in County Donegal, along with Bertra Strand and Golden Strand in County Mayo have failed to retain their blue flag status for this year's bathing season.
All three are classified as having achieved good water quality but failed to meet the 'excellent' standard required for blue flag status.
Rathmullan Marina in County Donegal has been awarded a blue flag for the first time ever this year.
Overall, 80 beaches and eight marinas have been awarded the coveted accolade for 2019, two fewer than 2018. Eighty of the 83 beaches awarded in 2018 retained their Blue Flag status, while all seven marinas rated last year — including the Royal Cork and Kinsale yacht clubs — have kept their flags.
County Kerry leads the way this year with 13 blue flag beaches, followed by Donegal with 11 and Mayo with 10 blue flags.
In addition to the Blue Flag awards, 62 beaches received the Green Coast Award for 2019, the highest number to date. The award recognises beaches for their clean environment, excellent water quality and natural beauty.
The awards were announced by An Taisce yesterday at a ceremony in The Armada Hotel, overlooking Spanish point Blue Flag beach in Miltown Malbay, Co Clare.
The 2019 Blue Flag Awards presentation took place at Spanish Point in Co. Clare today. Spanish Point was among 9 beaches in County Clare awarded a Blue Flag for the coming bathing season.@AnTaisce @TheBlueFlag @Failte_Ireland @wildatlanticway @HousingPress pic.twitter.com/Bulu46RrGE— Blue Flag (@BlueFlagIreland) May 20, 2019
An Taisce operates the programme on behalf of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), an international organisation that has been promoting environmental education for sustainable development since 1981.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Sophie Bachet Granados, International Blue Flag director, said the blue flag has operated in Ireland for more than 30 years: “At the Foundation for Environmental Education we have been impressed by the standard of the sites from Ireland over this period. The blue flag is a symbol of excellence in environmental education, management, water quality, safety and services.”
Originating in France, the Blue Flag award, which operates in 49 countries, recognises compliance with bathing water quality criteria. In Ireland, An Taisce is responsible for the operation of the programme which is funded by the Department of the Housing, Planning and Local Government.
Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy said he is delighted that 88 beaches and marinas are receiving Blue Flags, adding: "The attainment of 62 Green Coast Awards, the highest number since the inception of the awards in 2003, is extremely welcome.
The Green Coast Award is given to sites which have excellent water quality but which may be less developed than Blue Flag beaches. An important aspect of the Green Coast Awards is the involvement of Clean Coasts Volunteer Groups. There are now more than 800 coast care groups established throughout the island.