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'They robbed our beach of its blue flag'

A DUBLIN beach was "robbed" of its blue flag because of a single freak weather event four years ago, a politician has said.

Portmarnock's Velvet Strand was stripped of the coveted status for water cleanliness this year, having had a blue flag for the previous three years.

But Labour's Peter Coyle believes the blame lies with one of the worst deluges in the last 10 years, combined with an overly bureaucratic testing regime.

Mr Coyle said Portmarnock lost out because of a single water quality result on July 2, 2009, which should have been discounted.



The Velvet Strand has been meeting the EU water quality standards, as monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), every year, he said.

When it was announced that the beach, along with Skerries South, Donabate, and Portrane, had all lost their blue flags, Fingal was quick to point out there had been no deterioration in water quality.

Instead, a new classification system introducing a higher standard prevented retention of the flags.

From this year, the test results had to be rated 'excellent' for beaches to qualify. In addition, four years of monitoring outcomes were taken into account, rather than just one.

Speaking to the Herald, Mr Coyle, who retired as a councillor last week, said the 2009 test produced a "freak result", which should have been ignored.

But for the reading to have been discounted, Fingal would have had to apply for the derogation in 2009 but no application was made. Mr Coyle admitted the 2009 results "were way off the scale" but if they had been omitted, the Portmarnock beach would have kept its flag in 2013.

He said the combination of bureaucracy and freak weather "robbed" the strand of the status. In total, 16 top bathing spots lost their flags this year.