Donegal County Council plan to put in place pet friendly zones on beaches for 2022. The Blue Flag is an international environmental award made to beaches throughout the world that demonstrate good environmental standards and have good sanitary and safety facilities. To be given Blue Flag status a beach must have a high standard in water quality, environmental management, environmental education and information, and safety and services. The award is made by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), an independent non-profit organisation. To retain our valued Blue Flags beaches, Donegal County Council must fully comply each year with the criteria set by FEE and is subject to inspections throughout the Bathing Season (June 1st to September 15th) for compliance.
An Taisce, which operates the blue-flag programme in Ireland, has been requested by the FEE to advise local authorities they must meet all the rules of the programme if they are to retain their flags in 2022 and beyond. These rules include restricting access for dogs and other pets, other than assistance dogs, to blue-flag beaches or in the blue-flag area if it is part of a larger beach. The rule applies during the Bathing Season only.
With a coastline of over 1100 km, County Donegal is blessed with many beautiful sandy beaches and Donegal currently has the joint 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 arrangements to allow pet owners to continue to enjoy beaches while limiting pet access to certain areas of certain beaches at certain times during the bathing season. These arrangements were presented at the Council’s Climate Action and Environment Strategic Policy Committee on 26th January 2022.
On 10 of our Blue Flag beaches, plus 2 other beaches that it hoped will gain Blue Flags in the coming years, pets will be restricted from accessing a portion of the beach from 11am to 7pm each day from 1st June to 15th September. This area will include the area supervised by the beach lifeguards plus a buffer either side. Pet owners can continue to enjoy the other parts of these beaches with their pets, in accordance with the existing beach byelaws, at all times. 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 2 of our smaller beaches, Bundoran and Stroove, there is not sufficient space to fulfil our compliance with the Blue Flag criteria and also allow for an additional area for pet access. Therefore, pets will be restricted from accessing these beaches from 11am to 7pm each day from 1st June to 15th September. In the case of both beaches there are ample local alternative beaches and walks for pet owners and their pets to enjoy.
Donegal County Council will implement these measures for the 2022 Bathing Season. In parallel with this the Council will be undertaking a public consultation on incorporating the changes into the existing bye-laws relating to beaches. There will be further awareness campaigns to keep the public informed of the specific changes at these beaches.
Source: Donegal County Council