An Taisce, which decides on what areas receive the internationally recognised awards, is to begin a series of inspections next month of the worst affected beaches.
“There are serious concerns for some candidate Blue Flag and Green Coast Award beaches that have been devastated by the recent storms particularly where infrastructure such as access roads, car parks and other amenities have been destroyed,” said Annabel FitzGerald, manager of An Taisce’s coastal programmes.
These are among the 32 imperative criteria required to achieve Blue Flag status. The application deadline for applying for Blue Flag status was last December, before the worst of the storms hit.
“Starting next week, we will be visiting a large number of beaches and it is likely that a number of them will have to have their applications for Blue Flag status withdrawn,” said Ms FitzGerald.
“This is the first time we have to do this but these storms are unprecedented. Every year there are some issues raised with one or two beaches, but never to this extent.”
While she was reluctant to name any beach likely to lose its flag, she said she had written to local authorities nationwide, asking them to fill out a register of infrastructural damage.
“We have to be certain. The Blue Flag criteria will not change and we will not be able to make awards if the required infrastructure is not in place, regardless of how this came about. All criteria must be implemented by the start of the bathing season on June 1.”
The recent storms caused serious damage to counties from Mayo to Wexford. Concerns have already been raised for Mulranny beach in Co Mayo achieving Blue Flag beach status after it was destroyed by storms.
Among Clare’s Blue Flag beaches are Cappa, near Kilrush; Kilkee and White Strand in Doonbeg, Fanore as well as Ballycuggeran and Mountshannon on Lough Derg. Last year, Lahinch and White Strand in Miltown Malbay lost their flags and are unlikely to get them back.
Kerry has 13 blue flags — the highest number of any county — but is likely to lose several. The cost of repairs for storm damage and long-term coast protection in the county could be up to €30m.
Huge damage has been caused to Rossbeigh Beach in Glenbeigh as well as the smaller beach at Kell’s Bay, on the Iveragh Peninsula. In North Kerry, the beach area in Ballybunion also suffered severe damage.
In Cork, Red Strand near Clonakilty and Tragumna near Skibbereen were also devastated by the storms.
While beaches along the Atlantic seaboard are the worst affected, the east coast has not escaped. The Velvet Strand in Portmarnock in Dublin, which last year lost its Blue Flag status, was also damaged by storms.