Blue, green and gold: 159 beaches receive awards for top quality waters and settings

Pictured at a flag raising on Donabate's Balcarrick Blue Flag beach with Minister Darragh O'Brien are from left Mayor of Fingal Cllr Howard Mahony, Mariana Colman, Blue Flag; Cathy Baxter, An Taisce and Yvonne Jackson, Fáilte Ireland. Photo: Dylan Vaughan© Dylan Vaughan

Caroline O'Doherty

Blue flags will be flying on 94 beaches and marinas around Ireland this summer after they secured the coveted award for 2023.

A blue flag declares the beach has passed a series of quality assessments in the An Taisce-run scheme and that sand, sea and public facilities are clean and safe for enjoyment.

A further 65 green flags will be on display at beaches in areas of natural beauty where there may be fewer public facilities but there is a high standard of environmental management.

Green flags are awarded by Failte Ireland and the Department of Housing and 65 is the highest number since the scheme began 20 years ago.

Recipients of awards in each scheme, and a few high fliers that received both, were announced today at a ceremony beside Donabate’s Blue Flag Balcarrick beach in north County Dublin.

In total 159 flags were handed out, with eight sites receiving both the Blue Flag and Green Coast awards.

They are Fountainstown and Inchydoney East Beach in Co Cork); Balcarrick, Donabate, Co Fingal; Salthill Beach and Silverstrand Beach, Galway city; Trá Inis Oírr, Co Galway; Baile an Sceilg, Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry and Rosses Point Beach, Co Sligo.

A total of 81 of the 85 beaches and all ten marinas that received a Blue Flag last year have retained it this year.

Three new awardees, all from Co Mayo, have made the list. They are Bertra, Old Head and Clare Island’s Louisburgh Beach.

Two Co Waterford beaches lost their Blue Flag this year. Counsellors’ Strand and Dunmore Strand both failed to make the grade along with Cappagh Pier, Kilrush, Co Clare and Garretstown in Co Cork.

Three new Green Coast sites received flags this year: Carrowniskey Beach, Co Mayo; Bettystown, Co Meath and Rosslare Harbour Beach in Co Wexford which has regained its flag after a losing it for last year.

Two of last year’s green flag holders, Waterville in Co Kerry and Portacloy in Co Mayo, failed to retain their award after a dip in water quality was recorded.

Co Cork led the way with the most awarded sites, taking ten blue flags for beaches and two for marinas, and 15 green flags.

Cathy Baxter of An Taisce paid tribute to the local authorities, community and voluntary groups working to keep the beaches in good shape.

Some 1,800 local ‘Clean Coast’ volunteer groups are involved in working towards the Green Coasts awards alone.

“It takes immense dedication and effort to manage a beach or marina to meet the rigorous standards set by these prestigious award programmes,” Ms Baxter said.

“We extend our warmest congratulations to all the deserving sites that have achieved this remarkable reward.”

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien said the flag allowed the world to know how good Irish beaches were.

“During its 36 years, the Blue Flag has become an internationally recognised symbol of high standards in water quality, environmental management, environmental education and safety,” he said.