Clean sweep by hero priest is 'secret weapon' in bid for victory
Volunteers' six-month effort pays off
THEY say that cleanliness is next to godliness -- and a parish priest is being heralded as the lucky charm who helped guide Killarney to Tidy Towns success this year.
Fr Michael Murphy has now offered both spiritual and manual guidance to no fewer than three Kerry towns in the prestigious competition.
He was parish priest in Sneem and an active member of the Tidy Towns group there when it won the competition in 1987.
By 2000, Fr Murphy had moved to Kenmare , and was a driving force behind that town scooping the top award.
The 86-year-old priest then retired to Killarney, and provided the divine inspiration that guided the town to yesterday's Tidy Towns victory.
But he said there was no special secret to winning and it could only be achieved by keeping a town spotlessly clean. It is all down to "everyone working together to make a big difference", he said.
"Fr Murphy is our secret weapon," said Yvonne Quille, chair of Killarney's Tidy Towns committee. "He is our hero and he keeps us all grounded."
Ms Quille said as many as 300 volunteers had worked every evening for the past six months, painting, planting and picking up litter.
"Last year we were pipped at the post by just one point and this year the whole community came out in amazing numbers to support the drive and get Killarney well and truly over the line," she said.
Tom Randles, president of Killarney Chamber of Commerce, said the win was the accumulation of many years of work by many people.
"Words can't describe the feeling of jubilation and pride we all are experiencing in Killarney right now having been awarded the accolade," he said.
"Through the award we can prove that the unique natural beauty of the area is matched by the love, dedication and pride everyone in Killarney has for the area."
In their citation, the judges said: "To visit Killarney is a great joy -- there is so much to enjoy and admire. Killarney has indeed shown what can be achieved by volunteers working closely with local authorities, businesses and voluntary and sporting organisations."
The aim of the SuperValu-sponsored competition, which has been running for 53 years, is to get communities coming together to improve the place where they live and build friendship, camaraderie and community links.
Killarney also claimed the award of Ireland's Tidiest Large Town.
Elsewhere, Kilkenny city was named Ireland's Tidiest Large Urban Centre; Lismore, Co Waterford, was Ireland's Tidiest Small Town; and Emly, Co Tipperary, was awarded Ireland's Tidiest Village.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan presented prizes worth €210,000 during a ceremony in the Helix Theatre at Dublin City University in Dublin.
"This is a fantastic achievement for Killarney, a great destination and a worthy winner," said Mr Hogan.
"I continue to be impressed by the dedication and enthusiasm of all those involved in the Tidy Towns effort.
"These people volunteer their time and effort, year on year, in order to make their communities better places."
Mr Hogan said the results of their efforts were to be seen in attractive, well cared-for towns and villages throughout the country.
"It is clear that working together, getting out there and getting things done increases people's pride in where they live and helps to build stronger communities," he added.