After 56 years, Letterkenny finally cleans up at the Tidy Towns awards
After 56 years of sweeping, planting and painting, Letterkenny finally got its reward.
The town says it now aims to keep up the good work after winning a Tidy Towns award for the first time.
The Donegal town was the overall winner, claiming both the title of Ireland's Tidiest Town and Ireland's Tidiest Urban Centre for 2015.
While it has been participating in the competition since 1959, this is the first year that its contribution has been recognised nationally.
Anne McGowan, Letterkenny Tidy Towns Association Chairperson, said she felt "numb" when she first heard that her group won two awards at yesterday's ceremony.
"Letterkenny has every amenity you can think of, just people don't know about it," she told the Irish Independent. "We are going to keep it up. Our aim is to make Letterkenny a very good, nice place to live."
"It has enhanced the quality of life. It has made people interested and gives us a sense of our place," she added.
There were also rewards for Tidy Towns veterans, as Clonegal, Co Carlow, took home the Ireland's Tidiest Village award once again. Meanwhile, Westport, Co Mayo, was declared Ireland's Tidiest Large Town. Both teams had previously won those awards in 2014.
Marie Byrne, Secretary of Clonegal Tidy Village Association, said that residents in her area always made an effort to keep their gardens and window boxes tidy.
"They are so enthusiastic about Tidy Towns," she said. "Without people like Tidy Towns committees, the towns and villages of Ireland would not be where they are today," she added.
Presenting the prizes at a ceremony in The Helix Theatre, Dublin, Environment Minister Alan Kelly praised Letterkenny's achievement.
"This is the eighth time a town in Donegal has won the overall prize, but the first time for Letterkenny," he said.
"Letterkenny has entered the competition every year since 1959 and the win today is testament to them consistently achieving high standards in the competition at local and regional level," he added.
Just 52 towns entered the Tidy Towns competition when it first began in 1958, but it now attracts around 800 participants per year.
The awards, sponsored by SuperValu, also recognised hundreds of towns countrywide who kept their streets tidy in 2015.