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More than 100 Irish parks and gardens receive Green Flag Awards

Edel Golden, Jackie Clarke Museum, displays one of Mayo County Council's two Green Flag Awards for 2020. Credit: Naoise Culhane

Number of Green Flag Awards for best parks and gardens to visit in Ireland have surged again this year

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Sports & Parks

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18 November 2021 | 0

International accreditation for public park excellence in Ireland has increased again this year, to reach over 100 accredited public green spaces.

Announced yesterday (17/11/21) by An Taisce Environmental Education, the Green Flag Awards acknowledge Ireland’s best public parks and gardens for 2021. Ireland has been awarded a total of 103 Green Flag sites, comprised of 84 formal public Green Flag Park sites, along with 19 volunteer run Green Community Sites.

With the support of the NPWS and the Department of Housing, Local Government, and Heritage, seven Irish Green Flag sites have also been accredited to Green Heritage Accreditation standard. Green Heritage Site Accreditation is awarded to public green spaces of historical and cultural significance.

“I am delighted that the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department supports and co-funds the Green Heritage Site Accreditation Programme,” said Minister of State with responsibility for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan. “This scheme is a welcome and important complement to the existing Green Flag Award.

“The Green Heritage Accreditation widens the pool of sites that can participate in the programme and highlights the multifaceted nature of our green spaces. The scheme brings together the human and natural aspect of a place. It celebrates best practice in engagement with multi-layered heritage and reminds us all of our responsibility to appreciate and preserve richness and diversity of the green spaces that surround us.”

Best parks and gardens

The number of Green Flag Awards for the best parks and gardens to visit in Ireland have surged again this year, with 32 local authorities and park operators now partnering with An Taisce in delivering the international scheme. New green flag parks and gardens, accredited by teams of trained volunteer judges, include for the first-time sites from Counties Carlow, Meath, and Galway, as well as from Cork City.

Only awarded for exceeding tough environmental standards in green space management, and excellence of visitor attractions – the Green Flag Award Scheme is the mark of a quality park or green space and is recognised throughout the world. This year over 2,300 public sites in 16 countries around the World have achieved Green Flag or Green Flag Community Award status.
Once again more Green Flag Awards have been secured by Irish Parks and Gardens than by any country, other than the UK where the scheme originated in 1996.

This year participating countries include; Australia, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

The Green Flag awards are available to public town parks, country parks, gardens, cemeteries, nature parks and green spaces from across the whole country.

Green Flag Community Award

This year has also seen the number of Green Flag Community Award sites in Ireland continue to increase. Additional community run parks and gardens were accredited in Counties Fingal – North County Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Louth, Mayo, and Roscommon. Across Ireland 19 community groups are being acknowledged for the excellence of their volunteer run community green spaces this year.

The Green Flag Community Award extends the Scheme to include community initiatives such as Community Gardens, Community Parks, and Tidy Towns Projects. By providing our community green spaces with access to Green Flag Award best practice we empower community groups to improve their local community and environment.

In Ireland the Green Flag Community Award Scheme is supported by the Department of Rural and Community Development.

“Since 2018 the Department of Rural and Community Development has supported An Taisce with the expansion of the Green Flag into our community run spaces,” said Minister of State for Community Development and Charities, Joe O’Brien. “By doing this we have been able to leverage the Green Flag Award values and standards for the benefit of our communities and their voluntary work.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the hard work put in by park staff, and community volunteers, across the country. Not only in achieving this Green Flag Success for Ireland today, but in maintaining the many parks, gardens, and greens across the country for our mutual benefit. It is a great credit that they largely remained open and well managed at this difficult time.”

Peer review

The Green Flag Awards are judged every year by a peer jury of green space experts, who volunteer their time to visit applicant sites and assess them against eight strict criteria, including horticultural standards, cleanliness, sustainability, and community involvement.

“I think that the collaborative aspect of the Green Flag Award Scheme is of huge benefit. Not only for the free flow of knowledge, experience, and solutions, but also because it builds trust and understanding between community groups and local authorities when they are working together to achieve green flag status for their green spaces ” said Robert Moss, the Green Flag Award for Parks manager for the Republic of Ireland.

Moss also noted that the Green Flag Community Award element of the scheme is supported by the Department of Rural and Community Development because “it builds a very constructive conduit for information, knowledge and skill share between the professional and voluntary green space management sectors within our society.”

Biodiversity

Three of the 2021 Green Flag Award winning parks were also identified by the National Biodiversity Data Centre for an additional Pollinator Plan Award. This award is specifically for those Green Flag Parks or Gardens that have made an effort to support their local pollinating insects, or to promote their importance. The Pollinator Plan Award is jointly run with An Taisce Environmental Education to support the All Ireland Pollinator Plan, and is kindly sponsored by Young’s Nurseries. While there are pollinator project awards across different park categories it was Kilbarry Nature Park, operated by Waterford Council, that was the overall winner. This nature park is located upon the site of a rehabilitated landfill site, so it is great to see that a former environmental problem has evolved into an environmental asset.

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