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Kerry councillors vote to limit dog walking on blue flag beaches

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Dog walking on Kerry's blue flag beaches is to be restricted during summer months.

Dog walking on Kerry's blue flag beaches is to be restricted during summer months.

Dog walking on Kerry's blue flag beaches is to be restricted during summer months.

kerryman

Walking dogs on Kerry’s blue flag beaches is to be curtailed from June 1 to September 15 after Kerry County Council (KCC) voted to adopt the new by-laws at Monday’s full meeting.

The by-laws are targeted at reducing the risk of contamination caused by dog faeces that will protect the long-term status of blue flag beaches.

KCC received a total of 51 submissions from the public, 43 of which were against any restrictions on dog walking, while four submissions were in favour. Assistance dogs are exempt from the law.

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The restrictions will kick in daily between 11am and 7pm to coincide with the availability of lifeguards at beaches.

KCC will also introduce designated through-ways around blue flag areas where people can still walk dogs. The by-laws only apply to blue flag beaches.

KCC say the enforcement of the laws is a last resort and that it wanted to ‘bring the people with them’ on the issue.

KCC provided detailed maps of beaches indicating where the demarcated zones within blue flag beaches are. A social media video explaining the new laws was also proposed.

KCC explained this is not a ban on dogs or on people using beaches. Instead, the law is about meeting the criteria needed for the protection of blue flag beaches.

Director of Services at KCC, John Breen, explained how blue flag beaches make up just two percent of the county’s coastline. He added the laws were necessary to enhance the experience of beaches for visitors.

Cllr Sam Locke (Ind) proposed that the by-laws be accepted. This was seconded by Cllr Cathal Foley (SF).

“There was a lot of talk out there that this was a ban on bringing dogs to the beach. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Cllr Foley.

“Anyone that brings their dogs to the beach are responsible dog owners; the vast majority of them will have no problem with this,” he said.

"It was always the case that this was going to cause difficulty to some people, but I see this as a sensible and practical approach to the issue. If you go to France or Spain you will see similar signs at blue flag beaches,” Cllr Foley said.

Cllr Niall Kelleher (FF) welcomed the report, saying KCC had taken into consideration the changes of the people who made their submissions.

“I welcome the clarity that has been brought about on this,” he said.

Cllr Tom Barry (SF) said dog walking is important to people’s mental health, and as a social outlet for elderly people. As 43 out of 51 submissions voted against the by-laws, he could only side with this viewpoint.

“I can’t get away from the fact the vast majority of submissions are against this,” he said.

Cllr Mikey Sheehy (FF) said the by-laws were being ‘forced in on top of us’, stating the high maintenance of beaches should be everyone’s responsibility.

He questioned the ‘tight space’ of many blue flag beaches and whether or not this can be adequately policed.

“I’m not aware of any water or sand barriers outside of the blue flag beach areas. I think the rationale around that is questionable. We should also be focusing on driving education against irresponsible behaviour,” Cllr Sheehy said.

Cllr Jim Finucane (FG) ‘strongly supported’ the by-laws as they were about establishing ‘standards of behaviour’ to secure and protect blue flag beaches. He called them a ‘valuable asset’ to Kerry’s tourism brand.

Cllr Terry O’Brien (Lab) said if people were to read some of ‘our keyboard warriors’ over the past few months they might have got the impression the beaches were closing down.

“It’s great to have some bit of logic and common sense prevail today. I welcome these changes, people understand how valuable the blue flag beaches are,” he said.

It was agreed to trial the new by-laws until the end of the season.


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