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Tuesday, 21 March, 2000, 06:03 GMT
'Tide turning on dirty beaches'
Londonderry's Portstewart Strand is among the winners
Londonderry's Portstewart Strand is among the winners
The tide is turning against dirty sands and filthy water at Northern Ireland's beaches an environmental monitoring group has said.

Eight of Northern Ireland's beaches have been given the Seaside Award by the Tidy Britain Group, which administers the European Union-wide Blue Flag clean beach campaign.

Portrush east strand at one of Northern Ireland's busiest seaside resorts in County Antrim has won the award for the first year along with Portrush west strand, which had already been given a clean beach flag.

Other County Antrim resort beaches which have won the right to fly the distinctive yellow and black flag are Ballycastle, and Benone Strand.

The popular County Londonderry beach, Portstewart strand, was also awarded the flag as were Tyrella, Millisle Lagoon and Cranfield West in County Down.

The group said that Northern Ireland's beaches are at their cleanest since the awards started in 1992.

Helen's Bay and Newcastle excluded

However, notable absences in the clean beach list are the resort beaches of Helen's Bay, Crawfordsburn Strand and Newcastle Strand in County Down which are frequented by visitors from Belfast.

The flags are only given to resort and rural beaches that meet the minimum European directive standard on bathing water quality as well as checks on litter, safety, disabled access and maintained facilities including clean toilets.

Once the flags are flying, the district councils which manage the beaches must display information about water quality.

The beach will only be permitted to fly the flag during the summer season if the group feels standards are not slipping.

Tidy Northern Ireland Director Peter McGaffin said: "Today's news is a considerable bonus for tourism and business in Northern Ireland.

"A lot of work has gone into ensuring that last year's award winners consolidated their positions.

"It is also very pleasing to find that Portrush east strand has joined its West Strand neighbour."

But he added: "This is not a time for us to become complacent. We must strive to make sure all of Northern Ireland's beaches are clean and that our bath water is safe. The public has to play a part in this process by leaving nothing on beach but their footprints."

The results of the EU Blue Flag clean beach awards will be announced in May.

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