Donegal County Council announced the restrictions – which will apply on portions of each beach from 11am to 7pm each day from June 1 to September 15 – due to criteria set out by An Taisce.
The Blue Flag is an international environmental award given to beaches around the world that demonstrate good environmental standards and have good health and safety facilities. To achieve Blue Flag status, a beach must have a high level of water quality, environmental management, environmental education and information, safety and services. The prize is awarded by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), an independent non-profit organization. To conserve the valuable Blue Flag beaches, Donegal County Council must comply fully with the criteria set by the FEE each year and are subject to inspections throughout the bathing season (June 1 to September 15) for compliance.
An Taisce, who runs the blue flag scheme in Ireland, has been asked by the FEE to advise local authorities that they must follow all the rules of the scheme if they want to keep their flags in 2022 and beyond. These rules include restricting the access of dogs and other pets, other than service dogs, to blue flag beaches or the blue flag area if it is part of a larger beach. The rule only applies during the bathing season.
With a coastline of over 1100km, County Donegal is blessed with many beautiful sandy beaches and Donegal currently has the highest number of blue flags nationally, with 12 beaches in the county holding the award. To retain these iconic awards, Donegal County Council is putting in place provisions to allow pet owners to continue enjoying the beaches while restricting pet access to certain areas of certain beaches at certain times of the bathing season. . These provisions were presented to the Strategic Policy Committee for Climate Action and the Environment of the Council on January 26, 2022.
On 10 of the Blue Flag beaches, plus two other beaches which he hopes will earn Blue Flags in the coming years, pets will be banned from part of the beach from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day from June 1 to September 15. This area will include the area supervised by beach lifeguards plus a buffer on each side. Pet owners may continue to enjoy other parts of these beaches with their pets, in accordance with applicable beach regulations, at any time. The beaches where these restrictions will apply are Rossnowlagh, Murvagh, Fintra, Portnoo/Narin, An Charraig Fhinn (Carrickfinn), Trá na Cille (Killahoey), Marblehill, Na Dúnaibh (Downings), Portsalon, Rathmullan, Lisfannan and Culdaff.
Given the size of two of the smaller beaches, Bundoran and Stroove, there is not enough space to meet our Blue Flag compliance and also allow an additional area for pet access. Therefore, pets will not be able to access these slots from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily from June 1 to September 15. In the case of both beaches, there are many local alternative beaches and walks for pet owners and their pets.
Donegal County Council will implement these measures for the 2022 bathing season. In parallel, the Council will conduct a public consultation on incorporating the changes into existing beach by-laws. There will be other awareness campaigns to keep the public informed of the specific changes on these beaches.