Record 90 Blue Flag beaches for this year's bathing season
A record 90 beaches and marinas will raise Blue Flags over the summer bathing season, up two on last year.
Ardmore, Co Waterford, achieved Blue Flag Status for the first time since 1997, due to improved water quality brought about by a new wastewater treatment plant, while Carne, Co Wexford, has also achieved the award for the first time.
The Blue Flag is one of the world's most recognised eco-labels, and is awarded to bathing spots that meet strict criteria around water quality, provision of information, facilities and safety. Some 49 countries operate the programme, which is administered in Ireland by An Taisce.
It is designed to raise environmental awareness and promote sound environmental management of beaches, marinas and inland bathing waters.
"Today's high number of awards reflects the great efforts made by local authorities, An Taisce, local coastal communities and other volunteers on the ground," Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said.
"It also reflects well on the work being done more widely within catchments to improve water quality. Achieving these awards is quite rightly a point of fierce local pride, but it really engages communities and citizens with their natural environments."
The county with the most blue flags is Kerry, with 13 beaches and one marina. In addition to the 83 beaches and seven marinas which achieved the Blue Flag, another 59 beaches received Green Coast Awards, including two for the first time - Sherkin Island's Silver Strand in Co Cork, and Inishturk in Co Mayo.
These are awarded to locations that do not have the facilities for Blue Flag status but are recognised for their cleanliness, excellent water quality and natural beauty.
Four areas lost their Green Coast Award due to issues with water quality - Mornington in Co Meath, Port Arthur in Co Donegal, Waterville in Co Kerry, and Kilfarrassey in Co Waterford.
In all, five beaches have dual award status where they fulfil all Blue Flag criteria, while also involving the community in managing the site which is required under the Green Coast Awards. They are Portmarnock, Co Dublin; Salthill and Silver Strand in Co Galway; Rosses Point in Co Sligo; and Ballinskelligs in Co Kerry.
An Taisce said an "important aspect" of the Green Coast Awards was the Clean Coast groups, with more than 600 comprising thousands of volunteers removing 750 tonnes of litter from coastal areas last year.