MEMBERS of Cork County Council have agreed to send a letter to An Taisce querying the loss of the Blue Flag status at Garretstown beach but Cork County Council CEO Tim Lucey does not expect the status to be revisited this year.
Councillors at yesterday’s council meeting criticised the criteria set out by An Taisce, which operates the programme on behalf of the Foundation for Environmental Education.
It was recently confirmed that 10 Cork beaches were given the prestigious Blue Flag status for 2023, but Garretstown was one of four locations in Munster to lose the status.
Garretstown passed 32 out of 33 of the Blue Flag’s criteria, but failed to retain its Blue Flag status because recycling bins were not provided at the beach.
Fine Gael councillor Kevin Murphy said the decision was devastating.
“Removing the Blue Flag status was unnecessary, unfair, and devastating,” he said.
“There is a recycling service at Garrylucas, but no recycling service available at Garretstown. The area has been checked up recently and an area has been found to put recycling bins if needed.”
Mr Murphy said he wants An Taisce to reinstate the Blue Flag status at the beach.
“The beach is spotless,” he said. “There is no pollution and no litter there.
“I want us to immediately contact An Taisce, put in the bins that are needed, and reinstate the Blue Flag status. The economy in the local area will suffer big time if it doesn’t happen.”
The motion to write to An Taisce received unanimous support from all the councillors in the chamber.
Fianna Fáil councillor Gillian Coughlan said An Taisce needs to be brought to book on the stringency of their criteria.
“There are 44 pages of criteria for a Blue Flag beach,” she said.
“There is no reason for Garretstown to lose their Blue Flag status. Garretstown losing their Blue Flag status over the non-provision of recycling centres is outlandish. Everything else has been fulfilled. There are recycling bins very close by, and they are adequate.”
Fine Gael councillor Michael Paul Murtagh agreed, saying the decision was ridiculous and needs to be reversed.
Independent councillor Alan Coleman also expressed his support. “An Taisce have completely lost the run of themselves. The water quality is excellent, and nothing has changed since last year. This is bureaucracy gone mad,” he said.
Mr Lucey said it is a mandatory requirement at EU level to have separate facilities for recyclable waste materials. “The beach and the water quality is perfect,” he said.
“Facilities for separation of recyclable waste materials is a mandatory requirement for some time. It strikes me as rather unusual than An Taisce were happy to give a Blue Flag status for Garrylucas and Garretstown over the years when there wasn’t a particular recycling facility at Garretstown, but this time at an EU level in particular and at local level stick to that mandatory requirement.
“It will also come up in 2024 as well on the basis that it is a mandatory requirement. It won’t be revisited by the EU.
“We can write to An Taisce about it, but it won’t be revisited for this year. Garretstown is a beach of Blue Flag water quality status and that is the terminology we need to be using.”