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Council compromise on dogs’ beach ban

News

Amendment made to designate area for dogs to walk during bathing season


Anton McNulty

Areas of Blue Flag beaches will be designated for walking dogs during the summer bathing season which will allow the beaches to keep their Blue Flag status.
Members of Mayo County Council were asked at yesterday’s May meeting of the council to consider a proposal to ban dogs walking on Blue Flag beaches from 12 noon to 6pm during the summer bathing season from June 1 to September 15.
The partial ban on dogs is designed to help beaches meet Blue Flag criteria and Martin Keating, Head of the Environment section of Mayo County Council, said that failure to adopt the bye-law would result in Mayo losing all its Blue Flag beaches.
There was opposition to the proposal by some councillors in coastal areas of the county as they felt it was punishing responsible dog owners from being able to use their own beach.
There are currently eleven Blue Flag beaches in Mayo and Achill-based councillor Paul McNamara said that he was against banning people from walking their dogs but did not want to see the five beaches on Achill lose their Blue Flag beach.
“If this chamber does not vote in the bye-laws I will have to go back to Achill to tell the people of Achill and Mulranny that our six blue flags are gone. That is what I am faced with today.
“For someone who is born and bred beside a Blue Flag beach and to tell them they cannot walk their dog is ridiculous. I am proposing that there is a certain part of the beach made available in the bathing season where people can walk their dogs. The bye-law does state the dog must be on the beach and rightly so. I am proposing that amendment for the people who live there 52 weeks of the year so they can walk part of the beach with their dog,” he said.
Cllr McNamara added that people living in coastal communities have ensured that their beaches are kept in pristine condition so they retain their Blue Flag status every year but their rights should not be taken away.

Not acceptable
“If that is not acceptable to Mayo County Council and An Taisce and all the other bodies, it is coming to a stage we won’t be able to do anything in rural areas. This is the last time I will amend a bye-law for Mayo County Council or An Taisce because I won’t be the one that has the cause of us losing the Blue Flag beaches, but I will shout for people to retain their rights,” he said.
His amendment was supported by a number of councillors who felt it was a compromise which was needed to ensure the beaches retain the Blue Flag status.
Westport-based councillor Christy Hyland criticised the proposals to introduce the bye-laws to ban the dogs and questioned how the amendment will be policed.
“We’re adopting bye-laws today with a part of the beach set aside for dog walking. How will that be enforced? Of course I want the Blue Flags but tell me how this will be enforced. We are over a barrel because if we don’t adopt the bye-laws we will lose the Blue Flags. This to me is ill-thought out,” he said.
Director of Services, John Condon told the meeting the Cllr McNamara’s amendment will allow the beaches retain their Blue Flag status if the bye-law if adopted.
“We will put arrangements in place to implement the bye-laws and put the appropriate signage in place. As regard enforcement we will initially monitor as we would prefer people to comply voluntarily rather than have to take legal action. But if that doesn’t work we will have to enforce it,” he said.
The amendments to the bye-laws were adopted by the councillors who were also informed that the 2022 Blue Flag beaches ceremony will take place on May 20.