Sunday 21 July 2019

Inistioge's golden moment as village crowned best

Cllr Eamon Aylward and Frank Sullivan of Inistioge Tidy Towns
Cllr Eamon Aylward and Frank Sullivan of Inistioge Tidy Towns
Members of Inistioge’s Entente Florale committee celebrating as their big win is announced

David Looby

Inistioge is officially one of the most beautiful villages in Europe after Entente Florale judges favoured it over numerous rival towns and villages in the competition final in Tullamore, County Offaly.

Having been nominated for the competition in January, more than 100 people attended a meeting in the village and around 50 people signed up to volunteer over the following months to undertake several initiatives to improve Inistioge's chances in the competition. Dungarvan was nominated in the larger town category, winning silver.

Frank Sullivan of the village tidy towns committee said Kilkenny County Council got fully behind the committee from the beginning. 'We were up against 14 entrants from similar sized towns and villages across Europe from countries like Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Italy, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands,' Frank said.

All entrants were judged against ten categories and had to submit a portfolio showing the ways in which they had improved different aspects of their villages and towns, including through biodiversity projects and sustainability initiatives. 'It wasn't just about flowers. We got lots of volunteers to do a lot of different things. Everyone from children to people in their seventies got behind the projects. Everyone from the farming community to businesses and schools and residences got involved. It brought people together and lots of new volunteers came out of the woodwork.'

Judging took place in late July after 49 days of drought, which posed a particular challenge for the Inistioge Entente Florale committee.

Undaunted, they came up with a plan, and sourced water from the river Nore.

'We were on a 90 minute rota drawing water out of the river using three different vehicles, water bowsers. The judges arrived and the place was fairly burnt and brown looking but the efforts of everyone paid off,' Frank said.

One upshot of being nominated was the tremendous support provided by Kilkenny County Council, including upgrading the lighting, while the roads were resurfaced.

Three council officials helped the committee prepare their portfolio and outdoor staff helped with planting and maintenance works.

A group of around 20 volunteers travelled to Tullamore from Inistioge for the awards ceremony, which marked the first time in 17 years since the awards were held in Ireland.

The Inistioge group had a stall from where they handed out samples of local produce. During the ceremony the adjudicator read a summary of all of the judge's reports.

When Inistioge was declared the winner shouts of joy rang out.

Frank said: 'It was a great honour to be nominated in the first place; that in itself was an achievement, but to win gold, we hit the roof!'

The group were presented with a large bronze plaque which will be displayed in the village.

'It's a substantial plaque, around 15in sq. We brought it into the pubs on the Sunday night and there was plenty of cheering. This is a great legacy benefit as we have great infrastructural improvements for the village and we have a greater sense of community and will have a better cohesion of effort going forward.'

The tidy towns committee haven't decided where to display the plaque yet but are looking forward to unveiling it.

The tidy towns website had 10,000 visits the day after they won the award and hundreds, if not thousands of people have clicked into Inistioge on the Entente Florale website.

'We got lots of hits right across Europe and the Nationwide programme which aired in July brought hundreds of people into the village.'

New Ross Standard