The prestigious International Blue Flag has been awarded to seven of County Clare’s beaches, including Lahinch which lost its Blue Flag status in 2013.
Despite the extensive storm damage caused along Clare’s coastline earlier this year, Blue Flags have been awarded to Fanore, Kilkee, Cappa, White Strand (near Doonbeg), Ballycuggeran, Mountshannon and Lahinch.
The prestigious eco-label is awarded to hundreds of beaches and a small number of marinas across Europe each year. The award challenges local authorities and beach operators to achieve high standards in the four main categories of water quality, environmental management, environmental education and safety.
An Taisce, who administer the international Blue Flag scheme in Ireland on behalf of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), carry out inspections during the bathing season to establish a level of compliance with all the Blue Flag Criteria.
Speaking following today’s award ceremony at Skerries South Beach in North County Dublin, Clare County Manager Tom Coughlan acknowledged the positive contribution that the Blue Flag awards will make to the local tourism sector.
He continued: “Local beaches and marinas play an important part in the lives of coastal communities and visitors alike, providing opportunities for walking, swimming, water sports and fishing to mention just a few. For those visiting Clare bathing locations flying the Blue Flag this year, they can expect to find internationally recognised clean and safe environments.”
Mr, Coughlan added: “The extensive damage caused to infrastructure along the coast in January and February led to concerns that Clare beaches may not be awarded Blue Flag status during 2014. However, a significant programme of remedial works has been undertaken by Clare County Council which has helped to deliver today’s result. I am also encouraged by the continued assistance given to Clare County Council by local communities across the County to ensure that the high environmental standards are achieved and maintained at our beaches.”
Anne Haugh, Director of Services for Transportation, Environment and Emergency Services, also welcomed the announcement, adding: “The Blue Flag award is a highly respected and recognised eco-label working to bring together the tourism and environmental sectors at local, regional and national levels. Clare’s strong performance in the scheme reflects the number of quality beaches that are available to people living in Clare and those visiting the County. I particularly welcome the fact that extensive testing of the water at these bathing locations has shown that the water quality there is excellent.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Haugh expressed confidence that Clare could increase its complement of Blue Flag beaches from 7 to 8 in 2015.
“White Strand near Miltown Malbay was not considered for a Blue Flag this year due to the ongoing construction of a new community-based Lifeguard Training Centre by Irish Water Safety. The new facility will feature a lifeguard station, new toilets, shower facilities, storage area for rescue equipment and a training centre, and will greatly enhance the overall amenity of White Strand, once completed. An Taisce has said that the water quality at the location complied with Blue Flag Standards so we are hopeful it will secure Blue Flag status next year,” she concluded.