The headlines in yesterday’s Irish newspapers informed us that the village of Moynalty, in Co. Meath, is the 2013 winner of the national Tidy Towns’ contest. Woohoo! Cue the confetti & fanfare. But, what exactly is the Tidy Towns contest when it’s at home?
History of the Contest
In the early 1950s, the Irish government ran a “National Spring Clean” campaign, with the general aim of making the place presentable and attracting visitors. In 1958, “An Tostal” was held, a year-long festival celebrating all things Irish (a forerunner of 2013’s “The Gathering”), and the Spring Clean morphed into the Tidy Towns initiative.
How it works
Local councils and civic groups get together to spruce up their town or village, and enter it in a national competition. Local honor is at stake more than financial gain, as the prize itself is minimal compared to the amount spent on civic improvements and the thousands of hours put into local upkeep by volunteers year-round. But, the honor of winning can put a village on the map. Irish towns and villages helpfully position a sign announcing the name of the village on all approach roads — which is a major boon to most travelers — and villages who have won the Tidy Towns contest usually erect a grand sign decorated with flowers and boasting of their achievement (see pic above). Then the pressure is on for the town to keep looking like it’s only just won the honor, even when the prize may have come several decades previously.
The competition has long transcended its tourist-driven origins. Originally administered by the Irish Tourist Board, Bord Fáilte, the task has long been transferred to the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, as the benefits of attractive, litter-free, and community focused urban areas raises the standard of living for all.
832 towns and villages entered the competition in 2013, and the categories and winners were:
Ireland’s Tidiest Village: Moynalty, Co. Meath ** Overall Winner
Ireland’s Tidiest Small Town: Kenmare, Co. Kerry
Ireland’s Tidiest Large Town: Killarney, Co. Kerry
Ireland’s Tidiest Large Urban Center: Ennis Co. Clare
Moynalty (Maigh nEalta, meaning “the plain of the flocks”) was previously awarded a Tidy Towns’ Gold Medal in 2006, illustrating how the award reflects many years of steady work and improvements. It is the second town in Co. Meath to win the overall award, after Trim, which has won the top prize three times. The village is most famous for hosting an annual Steam Thrashing festival every August.
Learn more at the Tidy Towns’ website…