Blue Flag beaches in the county are to have designated areas where people can walk their dogs during the summer bathing season, which will in turn allow the beaches to keep their status as Blue Flag beaches.
The issue of dogs being walked on Blue Flag beaches during the summer bathing season arose recently as the elected members of Mayo County Council were considering new beach by-laws for the county.
The councillors had been asked to adopt by-laws that would have seen dogs banned from Blue Flag beaches between 12 noon and 6pm during the summer bathing season, which runs from June 1 to September 15.
The necessity to impose the restriction was to ensure that the Blue Flag beaches in the county were able to retain that status, with the head of the environment section of Mayo County Council, Martin Keating, saying that failure to adopt the by laws could result in the county loosing all its Blue Flag beaches.
Achill-based Fianna Fáil councillor Paul McNamara told the meeting that in his area they have six Blue Flags, five in Achill and one in Mulranny, before saying: "If this chamber does not vote in the by-laws I will have to go back to Achill to tell the people of Achill and Mulranny that our six blue flags are gone.
"That is what I am faced with today. For someone who was born and bred beside a Blue Flag beach and to tell them they cannot walk their dog is ridiculous. I'm proposing that there is a certain part of the beach made available during the bathing season where people can walk their dogs."
He went on to say: "If that is not acceptable to Mayo County Council and An Taisce and all the other bodies, it is coming to a stage we won’t be able to do anything in rural areas. This is the last time I will amend a by-law for Mayo County Council or An Taisce because I won’t be the one that has the cause of us losing the Blue Flag beaches, but I will shout for people to retain their rights."
There was broad support for Cllr McNamara's proposal to amend the proposed by-laws and it was acceptable to the council executive. However there was some questions of how the by-laws were even going to be enforced, with Cllr Christy Hyland saying: "We’re adopting by-laws today with a part of the beach set aside for dog walking. How will that be enforced? Of course I want the Blue Flags but tell me how this will be enforced. We are over a barrel because if we don’t adopt the by-laws we will lose the Blue Flags."