There were six more flags awarded this year than in 2014 — Rossbeigh in Kerry, Miltown Malbay and Spanish Point in Clare, and Bertra and Mulranny in Mayo all won back their award after losing out last year due to storm damage, while Ballinesker in Wexford achieved Blue Flag status for the first time.
In Cork, Redbarn and Garretstown reclaimed Blue Flags, while Garrylucas, Inchydoney, Owenahincha, Barleycove, and Tragumna all managed to retain theirs.
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Three beaches were a bit of a wash out thanks to a dip in water quality — Brittas Bay North in Wicklow, Enniscrone in Sligo, and Skerries in Dublin all lost Blue Flag Status.
“Blue Flags represent excellence. They are a clear signal of quality and are something to be cherished,” said Environment Minister Alan Kelly, who presented the awards.
“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.”
Mr Kelly said the awards are testament to “the sterling efforts” of local authorities, communities, and An Taisce.
Beaches must meet a total of 33 criteria to attain Blue Flag status, which is administered by An Taisce on behalf of the Foundation for Environmental Education.
It is an international, voluntary eco-label awarded for beaches and marinas, with a goal to promote sustainable development at coastal areas.
To qualify for the accolade, sites must maintain a high quality of water, safety, education, and/or information and environmental management.
Kerry and Donegal are the counties with the most Blue Flags, each holding 13. Mayo has 12 Blue Flags, Clare has nine, and Cork has seven.
The five marinas awarded Blue Flag status are located in Crosshaven and Kinsale, Co Cork; Kilmore Quay and New Ross, Co Wexford; and Killinure in Westmeath.
Some 58 beaches were also given a Green Coast award, including Inchydoney East in West Cork, and Seafield and Bishop’s Quarter in Clare.
Beautiful day in Bishop's Quarter beach, Ballyvaughan. pic.twitter.com/TIWjpW2g— Anne O'Keeffe (@Anne0Keeffe) March 25, 2012
These beaches usually do not qualify for Blue Flag status because they do not have built facilities for visitors.
“The Green Coast award recognises beaches for their clean environment, excellent water quality, and natural beauty. These beaches may not have the necessary built infrastructure required to meet the criteria set for Blue Flag status, however they are exceptional places to visit and enjoy our rich coastal heritage and diversity,” said An Taisce coastal programmes manager Annabel Fitzgerald.
“Local authorities, marina operators, and local communities should be commended for their efforts in achieving Blue Flag and Green Coast award status today.”
An important aspect of the Green Coast awards is the involvement of 440 Clean Coasts groups which organise thousands of volunteers nationwide.
“Clean Coasts groups contribute significantly to the protection of Ireland’s coast. In 2014 more than 800 beach cleans took place and these groups removed more than 500,000 items of litter from the marine environment,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
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Barleycove, Garretstown, Garrylucas, Inchydoney, Owenahincha, Redbarn, and Tragumna.
Ballinskelligs, Ballybunion North, Ballybunion South, Ballyheigue, Banna, Derrynane, Fenit, Inch, Kells, Maherabeg, Rossbeigh, Ventry and White Strand.
Ballycuggeran, Cappa, Fanore, Kilkee, Lahinch, Miltown Malbay, Mountshannon, Spanish Point and Whitestrand Doonbeg.
Clonea, Counsellors Strand, Dunmore Strand, Tramore.
Cill Mhuirbhigh, Loughrea, Salthill, Silverstrand,Trá an Dóilín, Trá Mhór Indreabhán and Traught.
Bundoran, Carrickfinn, Culdaff, Downings, Fintra, Killahoey, Lisfannon, Magherawarden, Marblehill, Murvagh, Naran, Rossnowlagh and Stroove.
Bertra, Carrowmore, Clare Island, Dooega, Elly Bay, Golden Strand, Keel, Keem, Killala, Mulranny, Ross, Mullaghroe, and Silverstrand Dugort.
Ardnahinch, Ballyrisode, Dooneen Pier, Galley Cove, Garnish, Inch, Oysterhaven, Ring, Rocky Bay and Inchydoney East. Kerry: Béal Bán.
Bishop’s Quarter and Seafield.
Annestown, Ballyquin, Curragh, Goat Island, Guillamene, Kilfarrasy, and Newtown Cove.
Aillebrack, Dumhach, East End Inisbofin, Renvyle, Salthill, Silver Strand, Trá Inis Oirr, and Trá gCaorach Inis Oirr.
Balcarrick, Portrane, The Velvet Strand Portmarnock, and The Burrow.