Over one-third of the 88 Blue Flag beaches and marinas in the country are in Munster, with Kerry leading the way, retaining all 14. Overall, it was a record-breaking year for quality and cleanliness of Irish coastal waters.
However, three popular beaches — Lisfannon in Donegal, Killiney in south Dublin and Balcarrick at Donabate in north Dublin — lost their Blue Flag status.
Portumna beach in Co Galway and Greencastle Marina in Co Donegal get to raise the flag for the first time. Bray South Promenade regains Blue Flag status, having not flown the flag since 2000.
Youghal, Co Cork’s Redbarn and surfing hotspot Garretstown in Co Cork along with Ross in Mayo all regained the Blue Flag status they had lost in 2016.
Co Kerry leads the way nationally, with 13 of its beaches along with Fenit marina achieving Blue Flag status. The Kingdom was followed by Co Donegal which had 12 beaches and one marina honoured.
In total, An Taisce awarded a total of 81 beaches and seven marinas Blue Flag status, three more than 2016. It also designated 61 locations for Green Coast Awards, an increase of five on last year and the highest number to date.
The Green Coast Awards were first presented in 2003 to four beaches in Wexford. The award was introduced nationally in 2008 and recognises beaches which do not have the facilities for Blue Flag status but are noted for their clean environment, excellent water quality and natural beauty.
Ballyallia Lake in Co Clare has been awarded a Green Coast Award for the first time. Castlegregory, Littor, Waterville and Ballinskelligs in Co Kerry received Green Coast Awards for the first time.
Fountainstown and Rocky Bay in Co Cork have regained the award for 2017 and Cullenstown Strand in Co Wexford was awarded for the first time since 2011.
Having failed to meet the excellent water quality standard required, Mullaghmore in Co Sligo failed to retain its flag.
Applications were not received from Balcarrick, Donabate in Fingal, Boatstrand in Co Waterford and Ballymoney in Co Wexford.
An important aspect of the Green Coast Awards is the involvement of Clean Coasts groups of which there are now over 500 comprised of thousands of volunteers.
These volunteers participate in community clean-ups and coastal enhancement projects at their local beaches during the year.
Portmarnock in Fingal, Co Dublin, Salthill and Silver Strand in Co Galway, Rosses Point in Co Sligo and Ballinskelligs in Co Kerry achieved dual award status.
Cork with 12 received the most Green Coast Awards . It was also the county with the most awarded sites at 21 — seven Blue Flag beaches, two Blue Flag marinas and 12 Green Coast Awarded sites.
Commenting on the awards, director at An Taisce’s environmental education unit, John O’Mahony acknowledged the work of thousands of volunteers around the country that take part on beach clean-ups.
“I would like to thanks and acknowledge the work of the local authorities and marina operators for all their efforts in ensuring that the sites being awarded for the 2017 bathing season have achieved the excellent standards required by the Blue Flag and Green Coast Awards.
“I commend the many thousands of clean coasts’ volunteers who participate in community clean-ups and coastal enhancement projects in their local areas throughout the year.
“It is the work of the local authorities and Clean Coasts’ volunteers that ensure Ireland’s fantastic beaches remain clean and safe for everyone to enjoy,” he said.
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