Minister Gormley presents the Blue Flag and Green Coasts Awards 2008


Mr John Gormley, TD, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, has presented the 2008 Blue Flag and Green Coast Awards.

The Blue Flag is an international award for beach excellence. It is presented to beaches which have excellent water quality, which provide a range of services and which fulfil other specified criteria - including environmental management and education.

The Green Coast Award applies generally to beaches which also have excellent water quality - but, which may be less developed or more rural in nature. The full range of Blue Flag-type facilities might not be appropriate at these beaches.

This is the first year in which these awards have been presented together.  Minister Gormley commented - “this is an important development, which recognises the complementary role of each award and demonstrates that a coordinated approach is being taken in relation to beach management.”

This is also the first time that the awards ceremony has included beaches in both Ireland and Northern Ireland. Minister Gormley presented the awards together with Dr. Roy Ramsey, the Director of Environmental Protection, of Northern Ireland’s Environment and Heritage Service. Minister Gormley commented that the joint presentations reflected - “the extensive and important cross-border coordination of effort that takes place in relation to a variety of environmental protection matters”.

This is the twentieth year in which the Blue Flag programme has operated in Ireland. Blue Flags were awarded this year to 78 bathing areas and 2 marinas. This is a decrease of 3 from the total of 83 awarded in 2007. The Minister said - "it is disappointing for all when flags are lost, especially as a large effort has been put into the Blue Flag programme at all of these locations”. The losses were due to deterioration in water quality in some areas, which resulted largely from the heavy rainfall experienced last year.

The Green Coast award originated in a partnership between five of the East Coast counties and our neighbours in Wales. Following successful operation of the programme on the East Coast, it is - from this year - being extended to embrace the whole coastline of Ireland. This will be facilitated through partnership between An Taisce, Tidy Northern Ireland and the Environment and Heritage Service of Northern Ireland. Already, there has been significant interest in the awards in the counties which are new to the programme. A total of 33 awards are being made for 2008. Tidy Northern Ireland will begin to roll-out the programme in 2009.

Merit awards were also made to individual and group volunteers. The Minister paid tribute to these volunteers - "who make a tremendous contribution to protection of our environment”.

The Blue Flag scheme is operated by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) - a non-Governmental organisation. The criteria for the award of Blue Flags relate to water quality, facilities for visitors, beach management - including litter control, environmental information and display facilities. FEE operates through national bodies who are responsible for the administration of the Blue Flag scheme in their countries.

The scheme in Ireland is administered by An Taisce. The administering bodies inspect beaches and conduct an initial assessment of applications for Flags, based on the previous year's bathing water quality results and compliance with the other criteria of the scheme. They are assisted in this task by a national jury comprised of members with appropriate qualifications/expertise in environmental, conservation, marine and consumer interest areas. The recommendations from each national jury are subsequently assessed by FEE’s International jury, which determines actual Blue Flag awards.

To download the Blue Flag & Green Coast Awards for 2008 - Click Here