Four out of five Dublin beaches retain Blue Flag status in latest awards
It's all going swimmingly for Dublin area beaches this year after four out of five beaches retained their coveted Blue Flag status.
With the beautiful Velvet Strand in Portmarnock as a backdrop, Environment Minister Simon Coveney announced that Portmarnock beach, along with Balcarrick beach in Donabate and Killiney and Seapoint beaches on the south side, have all retained the highest rating for water quality this year.
His announcement will come as good news to Dubs looking to soak up some well-deserved sunshine if the summer ever arrives.
But there was disappointing news for Fingal County Council, which lost another Blue Flag beach for the second year running.
Portrane beach in north county Dublin lost its coveted water quality status this year.
Although the standards are deemed to be good, they did not meet the strict new rules that govern awarding of blue flags.
It also lost its Green Coast Award status this year due to its "failure to comply with water quality requirements".
The awards are given to recognise beaches of high environmental quality.
In order to qualify, beaches must attain what is known as "guideline" water quality, which is the highest European standard. The loss follows the loss of Blue Flag status at Skerries beach last year.
Fingal County councillor Paul Mulville, who lives in Portrane, said he was disappointed that the beach lost its status.
"It's always been a source of pride locally and for the local traders and for tourism in general in north county Dublin," he said.
But he stressed that the beach is still perfectly safe for swimming and he anticipates it will continue to attract day-trippers, kayakers and wind-surfers this summer.
"The bathing water is totally safe and hopefully it won't have a big impact," he said.
He attributes the loss of the award to a torrential rainstorm that hit the area during the August 2014 bank holiday, which caused run-off from local fields to get into the water.
The quality is judged over a number of years, so this is what may have caused it to be downgraded, he added.
In the meantime, he will be seeking assurances from the council that everything will be done to make sure that the Blue Flag status is returned as soon as possible, he added.
Skerries councillor JP Browne said that despite the loss of its Blue Flag status last year, the north and south beaches remain as popular as ever.
"It's a much-loved and used amenity," he said.
In total, 79 beaches and six marinas around the country were awarded Blue Flag status this year, down one from last year.
"While the quality of Ireland's bathing water remains very high, we must not become complacent," the minister said.