An Taisce has awarded a record nine prestigious International Blue Flag to County Clare’s beaches, as well as two Green Coast Awards.
The Blue Flag award is a prestigious environmental eco-label awarded to more than 80 beaches and a small number of marinas in Ireland. The award represents high standards in water quality, environmental information and education, environmental management and safety, services and facilities.
The Flags were presented by Alan Kelly TD. Minister for the Environment Community and Local Government, at a ceremony held at Ballinskelligs Beach in Kerry.
Blue Flags were awarded to Whitestrand, Miltown Malbay, Ballycuggernan, Whitestrand Doonbeg, Mountshannon, Cappa, Fanore, Spanish Point, Kilkee and Lahinch.
Speaking following the award ceremony, Councillor John Crowe, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, expressed his delighted that Clare had for the first time been awarded 9 blue flags, as well as Green Coast Awards for beaches at Bishops Quarter at Ballyvaughan and Seafield, Quilty.
Councillor Crowe also noted the significance of Clare’s positive result in light of the damage caused to Clare’s coastline by a series of storms in 2014.
“The Council recognises the importance of our beaches as a place of recreation and enjoyment for locals and visitors alike. We invest considerable monies on an annual basis in maintaining and improving facilities at our beaches. I am confident that local communities will to continue to work along with Clare Local Authorities to ensure that the high environmental standards that have been achieved are maintained. When visiting our beaches I would ask everybody to please take responsibility for their litter,” he said.
Tom Coughlan, Chief Executive Clare County Council, also welcomed An Taisce’s announcement, adding: “The Blue Flag award is a highly respected and recognised eco-label working to bring together the tourism and environmental sectors at local, regional and national levels. Clare’s strong performance in the scheme reflects the number of quality beaches that are available to people living in Clare and those visiting the county.”
“I particularly welcome the fact that extensive testing of the water at these bathing locations has shown that the water quality there is excellent. The excellence of Co Clare’s beach and coastal environment is further recognised under the Green Coast programme, where two beaches have been recipients of awards,” said Mr. Coughlan.
The Blue Flag programme works towards sustainable development at beaches and marinas through strict criteria dealing environmental education and information, water quality, safety and services, and environmental management. To gain a blue flag, beaches have to meet a range of strict criteria.
“Local beaches play an important part in the lives of coastal communities and visitors alike, providing opportunities for walking, swimming, water sports and fishing to mention just a few,” explained Anne Haugh, Director of Services, Clare County Council.
She continued: “Clare has a long history of excellent quality beaches and bathing water. There is also a strong focus on lifeguard safety at our beaches, which was highlighted by the recent opening by President Michael D. Higgins of the Irish Water Safety Life Saving Centre at White Strand Miltown Malbay.
“We hope this Blue Flag announcement will inspire even greater confidence among the people of Clare and further afield in the quality of our beaches, including Kilkee, Spanish Point and Lahinch. Tourism has a strong focus in County Clare and our nine blue flags are testament to the high quality environment that we enjoy here. With this comes responsibility, so it is incumbent on us all to ensure we keep our beaches clean and litter-free,” added Ms. Haugh.
The Irish Green Coast Award Jury met on March 2nd 2015 to consider the applications made by Clare County Council for the Green Coast Awards 2015. Based on their deliberations, beach inspections carried out in 2014, bathing water quality results and the beach management plans submitted to An Taisce, the National Jury has awarded the Green Coast Award to beaches at Bishops Quarter at Ballyvaughan and Seafield, Quilty.