Cork, the country’s largest coastal county, has lost four of its blue flag beaches.
The county is only likely to get blue flag status for five of its beaches, all in south- west Cork — although Barleycove, in that region, will lose its designation.
The remaining two blue flag beaches in east Cork, Red Barn in Youghal and Garryvoe near Shanagarry will also be deprived of the EU-wide status.
It is likely to be several years before any beaches in East Cork will regain the special approval for crystal clear bathing water.
The announcement of the 2013 list of beaches and marinas approved under the blue flag programme will be made today by Environment Minister Phil Hogan.
Only five applications, it emerged, were made to An Taisce — which manages the programme in Ireland — for beaches in Co Cork.
The five seeking to retain their blue flag status are Garrylucas near Ballinspittle, Inchydoney near Clonakilty, Owenahincha and The Warren near Rosscarbery and Tragumna near Skibbereen.
Last year, Ireland secured a record 87 blue flags under the EU-wide environmental management programme.
In addition to Red Barn and Garryvoe, Garrett- stown, also near Ballinspittle, and Barleycove on the Mizen peninsula were not considered for inclusion in the 2013 programme.
All four had failed to meet a number of aspects in the criteria for blue flag status.
The announcement of blue flag-approved beaches will be made today as a two-day conference on tourism continues in Youghal.
The conference, with several keynote speakers, is being organised by the Mayor of County Cork, Cllr Barbara Murray, who lives in the town.
Two years ago the harbour town had three Blue Flag beaches, including Claycastle and the Front Strand. It lost both in 2012.
With Garryvoe also losing out, it means there will be no blue flag beach between Youghal and Ballinspittle.
One of the overriding reasons for the east Cork losses was last summer’s inclement weather.
Rainfall had been up 300% in the Cork area which led to extensive flooding and also resulted in animal faeces being washed into the sea.
Last August, Cork Co Council had been forced, following consultations with the HSE, to stop public bathing at a number of beaches due to very high levels of E-coli. Restrictions, at the time, had been put in place for several days at all beaches in Youghal, Garretstown, Garryvoe, Coolmaine near Kilbrittain and Oysterhaven.
Cllr Murray said she wasn’t surprised Red Barn and Garryvoe are losing their flags.
“The new designation for blue flags means you have to have exceptional water quality. We still have good water quality and not having a blue flag doesn’t mean people can’t swim at our beaches.
“Hundreds of beaches around the country don’t have blue flags and yet people are always swimming at them.”
She said last year’s exceptionally wet weather certainly had a bearing on the decision to drop the flags.
“We suffered more than most because everything was swept down the Blackwater Valley into Youghal Bay. But we’re not going to panic. It’s not the end of the world. If people enjoy coming to Youghal and Garryvoe they should continue to do so,” she said.
A further contributory factor is Youghal does not have its own sewage treatment plant, but that is about to be rectified. Cllr Murray said tenders have been received for the €18m project which will take up to two years to complete.
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