80 Blue Flags raised but storms sink five beaches
The worst storms in a century have cost five Irish beaches their highly-coveted Blue Flags.
But there has been an overall increase in the number of beaches and coastlines receiving awards since 2013 with 134 gongs (Blue Flag and Green Coast) handed out this year, compared to 119 awarded 12 months ago.
Some 80 International Blue Flags were yesterday awarded by Environment Minister Phil Hogan, which is four more than in 2013.
The awards are administered in Ireland by An Taisce. Applicant beaches must be identified with bathing waters above the 95th percentile across all 32 criteria, including water quality.
Fingal was the biggest winner with four beaches – Skerries South Beach, Balcarrick in Donabate, Portrane beach and Portmarnock beach – all regaining the flags they lost last year due to substandard water quality.
Across the county, Dublin now boasts six Blue Flags with Killiney and Seapoint holding onto their flags.
Waterford took four Blue Flags with Councellor's Strand and Dunmore Strand regaining flags. Clonea and Tramore held onto their awards.
Wexford also managed to add to its impressive tally with Morriscaslte joining reigning Blue Flag-flyers Curracloe, Courtown, and Rosslare Strand.
Cork (5), Galway (5) and Wicklow (3) all kept their Blue Flags, as did Donegal with a staggering 13 Blue Flags.
In addition to beaches, four marinas were also awarded flags. Killinure in Westmeath, Kilmore Quay and New Ross Marina in Wexford and the Royal Cork Yacht Club all retained their titles.
The good news was not universal, however, with a number of coastal areas, battered by hurricane-strength winds and record high tides during the winter storms, losing their flags.
In Co Clare, both Spanish Point and Miltown Malbay couldn't be repaired in time.
But Lahinch did regain its Blue Flag and was among seven beaches in the Banner county to receive the award.
Mulranny and Bertra in Co Mayo, also battered by storms, have lost their awards, as did Rossbeigh in Co Kerry.
There was also an increase in the number of Green Coast awards dished out. These are given to beaches and coastlines which are of a high quality, but do not have the necessary infrastructure for a Blue Flag.
Mr Hogan – at the ceremony at Skerries South Beach yesterday – congratulated the volunteers who worked to restore the country's beaches following the storms.