Dogs and horses could be banned from some of the country's most popular beaches in a move likely to disappoint many.
A meeting of Kerry County Council was told the restriction may be necessary for beaches to retain their blue flag status.
Kerry, along with Donegal, has the most blue flag beaches in the country at 14, including Inch, Banna, Ventry and White Strand.
While the restrictions will not be extended to guide and assistance dogs, the council was told that dogs and horses may have to be banned from blue flag beaches to appease the international blue flag jury or risk losing their status.
Council management in Kerry is now proposing no dogs or horses are allowed between the hours of 11am and 7pm from June 1st to September 15th.
If the rules are not adopted, Kerry will lose some of its blue flag awards, councillors were warned.
There is “an increased emphasis” on dog control in new Blue Flag beach designations by An Taisce, which administers the awards locally for the international blue flag jury, the meeting heard.
“An increased emphasis has now been placed on the issue and the jury directed all applicant local authorities to strengthen the delimitation of the Blue Flag area to exclude dogs or to instigate a timeframe outside bathing hours during which dogs can access the beach,” according to the council’s director of services John Breen.
All councils, not just Kerry, had been advised as such, and the failure to introduce the appropriate controls for the 2022 season would jeopardise the award of flags for 2022, senior manager Mr Breen said.
An Taisce administers the Blue Flag award programme in Ireland on behalf of the Foundation for Environmental Education (Blue Flag | Foundation for Environmental Education). The criteria in relation to dog restrictions are in place in the 50 countries globally that operate the programme, An Taisce's Ian Diamond said.
“The rationale for restricting access of domesticated animals to beaches is that amongst the most common hazards in bathing waters are microbial pathogens introduced by faecal contamination from humans and animals,” he explained.
Some councillors in Kerry expressed concern. Fianna Fáil’s Cllr Johnny Wall, former mayor of Tralee, who was co-opted onto the council seat vacated by Education Minister Norma Foley on her election to the Dáil, said he could not support the proposal, which would also affect horses.
Other provisions make it an offence to fail to comply with a lifeguard’s directions, and a ban on the use of certain inflatable water devices. Restrictions on lighting fires in dune areas are also being proposed.
Breaches could result in fines of just over €1,900 on conviction in the District Court. And an increase on the fixed penalty charge to €75, is being proposed.
The laws will be voted on in May.