EARLY 5.30am starts for teams picking up litter have helped a Co Meath village become Ireland's tidiest town.
Moynalty was awarded the top prize at the annual SuperValu National Tidy Towns competition at a ceremony in Dublin yesterday, beating off stiff opposition from more than 800 competitors.
Committee chairman Peter Rogers said it was "absolutely brilliant" to be announced as overall winner, and the secret of the village's success was the combined efforts of local groups, along with very early starts.
"We got up at 5.30am from March on," he said. "There's an anti-litter league in the county and that started in March, and we continued it on for the Tidy Towns.
"There'd be a rota done up, and we'd sweep the streets before we'd go to work. We'd sweep the litter on to the road, and Meath County Council would come along with a sweeper and take it up.
"There'd be five or six people out and that would change from morning to morning. We'd do that three mornings a week and that's what it takes to win it and compete with the best.
"There are between 25 and 30 people on the committee, but there are 28 local organisations in Moynalty and it takes a full effort from everybody."
Moynalty had taken the prize of tidiest village in 2004 and 2005, and also took the Silver Medal Award at the international LivCom 2012 ceremony in Abu Dhabi, which awards the 'most liveable' communities.
"This today creamed it off," Mr Rogers said.
Not only is it the first overall victory for Moynalty, but it is also the first Meath winner of the competition since Trim took the top prize in 1984.
The judges commended organisers for topping the list of 832 towns and villages which entered this year's competition.
As Ireland's tidiest village with 316 points, Moynalty receives a trophy and a cheque for €5,000. A second trophy and cheque for €10,000 is also awarded as overall winner.
"This is a fantastic achievement for Moynalty . . . a really worthy winner," Environment Minister Phil Hogan said.
"My congratulations to Moynalty and all of the other prize winners today. I am always impressed by the ambition and enthusiasm of all those involved in the Tidy Towns effort. The results of their efforts are obvious in the attractive, well-cared-for towns and villages we see throughout the country."
Judges commended buildings in Moynalty which were "recently painted" and "without exception" looked well. Some 2,000 trees were planted and construction of new stone flower-beds were an "attractive development", while picking up litter was "unquestionably the most important tool for maintaining the village litter-free".
"Moynalty is a beautiful village where the quality of life seems to be life-enhancing," judges said.
Other winners included Kenmare, Co Kerry, which received the award for Ireland's Tidiest Small Town; Killarney, Co Kerry, received the award of Ireland's Tidiest Large Town while Ennis, Co Clare, retained its title as Ireland's Tidiest Large Urban Centre.
Aine Purcell, of the Ennis Tidy Towns committee, which also won the same award last year, said the team was "delighted and very proud". She said: "It was a huge team effort and we're going to get a big cead mile failte when we get back."
Ballymun in Dublin is the most improved area in the capital, while awards from the Gum Litter task force were swept up by Wexford; Ballycanew won the village and small town award for its efforts in tackling gum litter, while the large town and urban centre award went to Wexford town.
The most improved area was Rearcross in Co Tipperary.
SuperValu MD Martin Kelleher said the Tidy Towns committees made a "real difference" at local level. "I am delighted to congratulate this year's winners and to recognise the commitment and dedication of Tidy Towns committees nationwide who make such a real difference at a local level," he said.