Blue Flags awarded to 79 of our beaches - but four lose out
Coasts with the most
Things are going swimmingly for Irish coastlines, with 79 beaches and six marinas achieving the highest possible water quality standards.
Environment Minister Simon Coveney announced 141 awards in total for the quality of water and environmental amenities of our coastlines, against the backdrop of Velvet Strand in Portmarnock.
Unfortunately, the overall number of Blue Flag awards is down one from last year; four beaches lost their Blue Flag status.
However, three new pristine beaches were added to the list.
In county Dublin, Portrane Beach, which overlooks Lambay Island, lost both its Blue Flag and Green Coast awards.
Local councillor Paul Mulville, who lives in Portrane, said he believes a torrential rainstorm in August 2014 caused run-off from nearby fields to affect the water quality.
But he stressed the beach is perfectly safe for swimming and other activities.
Two beaches in county Cork, Garretstown and Red Barn, lost their Blue Flags this year, as did Ross Killala in Co Mayo for "failure to provide adequate lifeguard cover" on the date of inspection.
Ballymoney North beach in Co Wexford was awarded its first ever Blue Flag this year, as was Brittas Bay North beach in Co Wicklow.
The Fenit Marina in Co Kerry was also awarded its first Blue Flag.
Meanwhile, counties Donegal and Kerry retained their status as the counties with the most Blue Flag beaches in the country, at 13 each, which were all retained from last year.
Co Mayo came next with 11 Blue Flags that were all retained from last year, followed by nine in Co Clare, which retained all of its Blue Flags from last year.
The annual water quality awards, which have in place since 1988, are administered by An Taisce as part of an international scheme involving more than 60 countries.
Despite the high level of achievement this year, Mr Coveney stressed that we must continue to be vigilant to ensure the best possible water quality.
"We are particularly fortunate to have a varied and beautiful coastline with many pristine beaches that are open to the public to enjoy," he said.
"However, we cannot rest on our laurels and must continue to make strident efforts to protect and improve our waters.
"This will ensure that we, and future generations, can continue to enjoy this wonderful resource."