Mr Eoghan Murphy T.D., Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, today (21 May 2018) presented the 2018 Blue Flag and Green Coast Awards at a ceremony at The Martello Hotel, Bray Co. Wicklow. A total of 149 awards were presented for beaches and marinas at 144 sites around the country with 5 sites receiving both the Blue Flag and Green Coast Award.
The Blue Flag is an international award for beach excellence and is operated in Ireland by An Taisce with support from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. The award is presented to beaches and marinas which have excellent water quality and which achieve high standards across a wide range of other criteria including environmental education, management of the environment, safety and other services.
Operating in Ireland since 1987, a record high total of 90 Blue Flags has been awarded, 83 to beaches and 7 to marinas. The Minister noted that “Today’s high number of awards reflects the great efforts made by local authorities, An Taisce, local coastal communities and other volunteers on the ground. It also reflects well on the work being done more widely within catchments to improve water quality”.
59 Green Coast Awards were presented for 2018. The Green Coast Award is given to sites which have excellent water quality but which may be less developed and less populated than Blue Flag beaches. An important aspect of the Green Coast Awards is the involvement of Coastcare Volunteer Groups. There are now over 400 Coast care groups established throughout the island. The Minister paid tribute to the work of these groups stating that “Achieving these awards is quite rightly a point of fierce local pride but it really engages communities and citizens with their natural environment. Government is committed to supporting these programmes and to building on them to achieve positive changes in environmental behaviour”.
The Minister also highlighted the very useful and timely bathing water information now available to beach users on the linked websites – www.blueflagireland.org and www.beaches.ie – run by An Taisce and the Environmental Protection Agency respectively.
The Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE)
FEE is an international organisation that has been promoting environmental education for sustainable development since 1981. FEE is an umbrella organisation with members in around 60 countries world-wide. FEE is active in environmental education mainly through five programmes: Blue Flag, Green-Schools, Young Reporters for the Environment, Learning about Forests, and Green Key. More information about FEE and the FEE programmes can be found at www.fee-international.org.
The National Trust for Ireland is the Irish member of FEE and responsible for the coordination of FEE programmes in Ireland.
Blue Flag Scheme
The Blue Flag originated in France in 1985 and the programme became an international award in 1987. It has since spread across the world. An ever-increasing number of countries participate in the programme with over 4,400 flags issued in 45 countries in 2017.
The Blue Flag Award scheme is an internationally recognised quality mark for bathing waters and is coordinated in Ireland by An Taisce (The National Trust for Ireland). It requires that bathing waters achieve, among many other elements, compliance with the EU guide values for both microbiological parameters.
Green Coast awards
The Green Coast Award is part of the Clean Coasts Programme which is funded by the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government. The Green Coast award is a similar scheme to the Blue Flag, for beaches where less infrastructure is in place.
The Green Coast Awards were originally operated as a partnership between some of the east counties and the authorities in Wales. In 2008 the programme was extended to embrace the whole coastline of Ireland. The programme is now facilitated through partnership between An Taisce, Tidy Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
The Department has provided funding to An Taisce to support the nationwide roll-out of the awards and the authorities in Northern Ireland have similarly provided funding there. The programme is also sponsored by Fáilte Ireland and Coca-Cola.
The aim of the Green Coast Award is to acknowledge, promote and protect the environment of rural beaches. To achieve the award, beaches must have excellent water quality and have effective and appropriate management to ensure the protection of the natural environment.
It places a strong emphasis on community and environmental activities.
Details of the Blue Flag and Green Coast Schemes
Available at www.blueflag.org,