Five Irish beaches have failed to retain blue flag status due to a deterioration in the quality of their water.
The five beaches that lost the flag this year are Bray South Promenade in Wicklow; Warren, Cregane Strand in Cork; Traught, Kinvara in Co Galway and both Carrowmore and Clare Island in Co Mayo.
One of the world’s most recognised eco-labels, the blue flag programme aims to raise environmental awareness and promote sound environmental management of beaches, marinas and eco-tourism boats around the world.
Beaches are required to have excellent water quality to qualify for the flag, but the rating for five beaches deteriorated to “good”, based on an analysis of bathing water samples over the past four bathing seasons.
In total, 85 beaches and 10 marinas were awarded the blue flag for 2022, an increase of two sites when compared to 2021, and the highest total since the programme began 35 years ago.
Seven beaches that were not awarded the flag in 2021 have been awarded for the coming bathing season. These are: Trá Inis Oírr in Co Galway; Fountainstown and Youghal Front Strand in Co Cork; Balcarrick, Donabate and Rush, South Beach in Fingal; Ballybunnion North Beach in Kerry and Ballymoney North Beach, in Co Wexford.
This is the first year Trá Inis Oírr, the main beach on Inis Oírr in Co Galway has been awarded a blue flag, while Fountainstown in Cork received the award for the first time since 1991.
Youghal Front Strand in Cork will fly the blue flag for the first time since 2011, and Balcarrick, Donabate in Fingal has been awarded a flag for the first time since 2016.
The flags are awarded by An Taisce, a charity working to conserve Ireland’s natural environment and built heritage.
Green coast award
In addition, 62 beaches received the green coast award for the 2022 bathing season, which recognises beaches for their clean environment, excellent water quality and natural beauty.
The green coast awards pay particular tribute to clean coasts groups, which are comprised of tens of thousands of volunteers who participate in community clean ups.
Ballynamona Beach in Co Cork was awarded a green coast award for the first time this year.
Cork is the county with the most green coast award beaches once again in 2022 with a total of 15.
Mornington in Meath and Oysterhaven in Cork, both of which were last awarded in 2020, have been awarded for the 2022 season.
Kilfarrassey in Waterford, which was last awarded in 2018, and Balcarrick Beach, Donabate in Fingal, last awarded in 2016, have both been awarded for the upcoming season.
Five beaches were awarded both a blue flag and a green coast award for the 2022 season.
They are: Balcarrick Beach, Donabate in Fingal, Dublin; Ballinskelligs in Kerry; Salthill and Silverstrand in Galway City and Trá Inis Oírr in Galway.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Malcolm Noonan, Minister of State for Heritage, said this is the 35th year of the blue flag programme, which has become "an internationally recognised symbol of high standards in water quality, environmental management, environmental education and safety".
“I am pleased to be presenting 95 blue flags and 62 green coast awards today and want to commend the great efforts made by local authorities, An Taisce, coastal communities and volunteers for their work around the country.”
Ian Diamond, coastal awards manager for An Taisce, commended the efforts of those who maintain standards.
“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to manage a beach or marina to the excellent standards required by these award programmes,” he added.