Listowel's victory 25 years in the making
Locals in Kerry town celebrate as it finally scoops top award in the search for Ireland's tidiest
After 25 years of tireless work planting flowers and picking up litter, a community with "hearts as big as mountains" has made Listowel the country's tidiest town.
As word seeped through yesterday, residents of the beautiful Co Kerry town were delighted to shout the news from the rooftops.
They were ably assisted in the task by a car that was equipped with a loudspeaker that was driven around the town, ensuring that no one was left unaware of their achievement.
It was loudly proclaimed: "Listowel has been crowned the winner of Tidy Towns 2018.
"A celebration and homecoming for the hard-working volunteers will be held tonight in the town's square at 8.30pm. Come one, come all!"
Towns across the country entered the hotly contested competition, but west was the best when it came to the judges' views on the tidiest places in Ireland.
From the moment the decision was announced, the celebrations in Listowel began with many comparing the day to winning the All-Ireland final.
Locals came out in their droves last night to welcome home members of the Tidy Towns committee who travelled back from the awards ceremony.
The celebrations went long into the night as Billy Keane, Irish Independent columnist and son of the late John B Keane, welcomed the volunteers back to his pub in the town.
"What they do is just extraordinary," he said. "The volunteers are mostly led by some of the most dedicated and hard-skinned women you would ever meet in your life.
"There's a saying that one good woman is better than 10 men, but we've been blessed with many more who give their lives to make this town what it is today.
"The Tidy Towns group is driven by ordinary people, who you often see up at the crack of dawn picking up litter and watering flowers."
Mary Hanlon has been a volunteer with Listowel Tidy Towns since it originated 25 years ago. She said she was shaking with excitement when the news came through.
"I've been waiting for two decades for this moment. It was a combined effort from so many people and groups like the Chamber Alliance who made this day possible.
"You would see us in the pouring rain and sweltering heat and we have worked so hard that I had a good feeling we'd be in the shake-up.
"But to be announced as the overall winner will definitely be among one of the proudest moments of my life," she said.
"Unfortunately my husband fell ill and I couldn't make it to Dublin, but I was certainly there in spirit. Myself and Eileen Worts are the only original members of Listowel Tidy Towns, but to see it grow and flourish is just incredible."
Scores of towns and villages across the country picked up awards in various categories and Rural and Community Development Minister Michael Ring congratulated other prize-winners.
The north Kerry town was best of a record number of 883 entries from towns and villages throughout the country.
Listowel also claimed the award of Ireland's Tidiest Small Town. Other winners included Glaslough, Co Monaghan, which received the award for Ireland's Tidiest Village, while Westport, Co Mayo, won the gong for Ireland's Tidiest Large Town.
Ballincollig, Co Cork, was declared as Ireland's Tidiest Large Urban Centre.
Speaking at the event, Mr Ring said: "The work of all those involved in the Tidy Towns effort results in the attractive and welcoming towns and villages we see all over the country."
The west cleans up at awards
When it comes to the tidiest places in the country it seems the west is the best.
Towns and villages on the Atlantic coast side were the big winners at the 60th annual TidyTowns competition yesterday.
Listowel, in Co Kerry, won the best overall award, along with the tidiest small town.
Ballincollig, Co Cork, scooped the tidiest large urban centre award, while Westport, in Co Mayo, was named Ireland's tidiest large town.
However, the trend of western winners was bucked by the tidiest village award, which went to Glaslough, in Co Monaghan.
The awards were presented by Michael Ring, Rural and Community Development Minister, at The Helix, in DCU, Dublin.
Mr Ring was especially happy to see Westport pick up one of the top prizes - it's the minister's constituency and home town.
"I was very proud to be able to present the prize to the committee and congratulations to them," he told the Irish Independent.
He also congratulated the overall winner.
"This is a fantastic achievement for Listowel who are very deserving winners," the minister said.
"Listowel is one of a small number of centres who have consistently entered the competition since its launch in 1958 and in the intervening years have worked steadfastly on improving their position in the TidyTowns competition.
"All that dedication and effort has paid off.
"The work of all those involved in the TidyTowns effort results in the attractive and welcoming towns and villages we see all over the country."