The other week, I was sitting at home listening to the radio – which, I firmly believe is the best thing one can do to that particular contraption – when an article of news came up, regarding the awarding of the prestigious blue flags to the beaches of Ireland. Now, I had done some serious and detailed research on this subject as a project in National School, and apparently, blue flags are extremely important to beaches. They tend to chatter about little else and get very defensive if they don’t have one. The rumour-mill in the beach world asserts that Bettystown made its own blue flag out of a pole and appropriately coloured paper – a charge that the beach vehemently denies.
However, though I listened with bated earholes, once again Dublin 15 failed to capture a flag of any colour, never mind a blue one.
“Same as last year,” remarked my wife dolefully.
“And the year before,” I replied.
“And the year before.”
It was a conversation that could have gone on for a very long time in a very repetitive manner, had our son, demanding money to go to the 'Plex, not interrupted us.
Over the next couple of days, the disappointment over the flaglessness of Dublin 15 turned first to anger, then to a small pain in my toenail and finally to a determination that something should be done about this lamentable state of affairs. I would contact our newly-elected councillors, distribute leaflets and, if all else failed, chain myself to Brian Lenihan. We could mobilise the troops to march on the County Council Offices, or, if they were shut, we could march on Penney’s. We’d have a sit-down protest with a difference – we’d all stand up. If it’s good enough for Malahide and Killiney, it should be good enough for Blanch. Nothing, nothing would stand in our way of Blue Flag Status.
My first plan of action was to contact those individuals successful in the recent local elections, whose faces beamed down hopefully on us for weeks. I was actually amazed to discover that they have bodies like the rest of us, and not the bottom half of lampposts. Bizarre!
I have to say I was extremely disappointed by their response. The dogs in the ever-increasing number of streets are all howling at the moon that housing is just shooting up everywhere, with little or no regard to infrastructure, amenities or facilities. Yet when I approached these civic guardians of our community, they displayed no enthusiasm at all for the campaign. One of them nodded sagely while I explained the situation, before promising that he’d get back to me. Several backed nervously away. One of them assured me that a letter would be winging its merry way to the Minister for Blue Flags in the morning. I knew he was lying by the way he opened his mouth.
Singularly unimpressed, I decided to tackle the County Manager on the subject. He was somewhat taken aback at being accosted in the yogurt aisle in Dunnes, and tried to flee towards the meat and deli, but I took a short cut down the frozen pizza lane and headed him off.
“Look!” he exclaimed tetchily, pinned between my trolley and the fresh fish display. “We’re an inland postal district. We don’t even have a coastline! How do you expect us to get a blue flag when we don’t even have a beach?”
I looked him steadily in the eye. Then I looked him steadily in the nose.
“Oh, you need a coastline to have a blue flag beach, do you?” I remarked, the sarcasm dripping copiously off my tongue.
“Err, well, yes, actually,” he countered, though I could tell his answer lacked conviction.
Slowly I released him. There is no point arguing with that kind of defeatist attitude. The Ireland of Pearse and Connolly and Kevin Moran is dead and gone. Apparently it’s with David O’Leary in a grave somewhere. No imagination, no dreams, just feeble excuses. No coastline! Pah!
What our civic planners obviously fail to appreciate is the tremendous tourist potential in attaining Blue Flag Beach status. Every sweltering Saturday and Sunday in the summertime, where do people head to? [Apart from the Phoenix Park Garden Centre, I mean.] To the beach! Ah, those halcyon days of our childhood! Kids happily throwing beach balls to each other on the back seats of stationery Cortinas, toddlers washing their dribbling faces with a combination of sand and ice-cream, mothers telling fathers that any fool could have known that all roads to Skerries would be choc-a-bloc, and they’d have been better off staying at home in the garden.
Our councillors should be actively promoting Blanchardstown as a popular seaside resort. Instead they dismissively ignore the huge potential for the growth of the tourist industry. How much of Dublin 15 has been zoned as a beach? None of it. With all the talk of residential areas and green belts, what debate has there been on rezoning land as sandy belts? I can see it now. A long, wide front on the Snugborough Road extension with Victorian lampposts and oul’ wans sitting on benches wolfing down 99s and admiring the bronzed surfboarders walking up from the old Research laboratories. B and Bs with names like Bella Vista and Sea Mist springing up in Corduff to cater for the massive influx from Leixlip and Celbridge. We could even have illuminations and trams and a pier.
With the next election a long way off, the chances of getting any action out of our public representatives are about as slim as getting out of first gear on the Clonsilla Road at 5.30 on a Friday evening. However, the campaign is gaining momentum. By now, you should all have received my leaflet, “The Corduff Riviera – Life’s A Beach,” in which I set out my ambitious plans for the area, and also give details how members of the public can rally to the cause by donating large amounts of money to my bank account. I have enrolled at the Ian Paisley School of Marching in order to learn to march both loudly and effectively. I have even made tentative representations to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on the grounds that the awarding of blue flags actively discriminates against non-coastal sections of our community.
Some people look at the stars and think “Why?” I look at the stars and think “I dunno.” In your dreams, nothing is impossible, as Benny from Abba once said.
Arise, Blanchardstown! It is time to shake off your inland shackles and your inland mentality and take your place amongst the Blue Flag beaches of the world!