When the rain eases and the sun decides to return to the west, the people of Mayo will have the pick of top-class beaches to soak up the rays of the sun after it was announced the county had retained its 13 Blue flag beaches.
Mayo was awarded the 13 Blue Flags by the Minister of Environment, Phil Hogan at a ceremony at Portmarmock in Dublin last week. Once again Mayo tops the list of the greatest number of Blue Flags beaches along with Kerry and is also joined at the top for the first time by Donegal.
The Blue Flag is an international award for beach excellence which is operated in Ireland by An Taisce with support from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
A record number of 84 Blue Flags were awarded to beaches around the country along with three marinas also receiving Blue Flags. Donegal joined the top table with 13 Blue Flags after the Downings beach retained its flag for the first time since 1999.
In 2010, two beaches in Mayo - Ross and Old Head - lost their Blue Flag to bring the county’s number to eleven but regained them in 2011 and retained them again this year. The Mayo beaches award Blue Flag awards for 2012 are Bertra, Carrowmore, Clare Island, Mulranny, Dooega, Dugort, Keem Bay, Keel, Golden Strand, Elly Bay, Mullaghroe, Ross and Old Head.
There were calls last year to increase the number of Blue Flags in the county with Lacken and Carrowniskey mentioned as possible candidates. However, officials from Mayo County Council poured cold water on the idea by explaining that they did not have the resources to carry out the necessary works to obtain extra Blue Flags.
A number of criteria have to be adhered to before awarding a Blue Flag including waste bins and recyclable facilities being available on/by the beach, clean sanitary facilities and adequate number of lifeguards.
Minister Hogan welcomed the record number of Blue Flags in the country and said they should be something to cherish.
“The Blue Flag programme has been operating in Ireland since 1988 and in the intervening period has become a highly respected, internationally recognised eco-label of huge significance to the local communities and the tourism sector alike,” he said.
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