Look, judges - no bins. The village that kept fit while keeping clean


HOW DO you stop people from littering? Take away every bin in the village. It’s a high-risk strategy, but it paid off for Abbeyshrule, which was named the tidiest town in the State yesterday.

Tidy Towns committee chairman Philip Butler said people were using the bins for household rubbish to avoid bin charges.

Removing the bins was “a hard thing to do” but it worked.

“When they see a place clean, they will dare not throw litter,” he said.

“They bring their litter with them. When they see a place clean, they respect it.”

No matter how hard you look, you won’t spot a cigarette butt or a scrap of litter in the village.

At first glance it seems the place is so flower-friendly that plants will sprout out of any stationary object.

It’s easy to see why Abbeyshrule – midway between Longford, Mullingar and Athlone – took the top prize.

It has a natural advantage in its picturesque setting, snugly located between the Royal Canal and the river Inny, but a lot of hard work obviously goes into keeping it immaculate.

The lack of litter may have something to do with the fact that the two village shops are long closed – as is the post office and the Garda barracks.

The internet and mobile phone reception is poor there – according to locals you have to stand in the middle of the street to send a text – but there are no overhead wires either, and tall wrought-iron lamps have replaced the much less attractive telegraph poles.

Locals will tell you that you can’t get into Abbeyshrule without crossing water, which gives a good indication of how pretty it is with its tended river bank, wild life sanctuary and community garden, complete with goats and hens.

Jimmy Mitchell, a stalwart of the Tidy Towns effort, said the no-bin strategy was aimed at educating people to bring their rubbish home, and so they do.

Asked what action he would take if he saw anyone having the temerity to drop a scrap of paper on the ground, he shrugged and said: “I’d pick it up.”

So while litter louts aren’t put in the stocks in Abbeyshrule, it would take a brave soul to drop a sweet-paper on those pristine streets, where even the vacant buildings are freshly painted with murals and old reproduction photographs fill the windows.

“The place didn’t get lost in the Celtic Tiger,” stressed local teacher Irene McGoey.

Even Abbeyshrule’s newly built housing estate, Corncrake Meadow, is an eco-friendly development (and only a few units are empty), she said.

Sustainability is a buzzword in Abbeyshrule, which boasts a population of about 200.

Now that they have the Tidy Towns award in the bag, they are hoping to win the Entente Florale: 14 locals will travel to Venlo in the Netherlands on Friday for the awards ceremony.

Entering the competition has had an unexpected side effect on the villagers.

“It takes down the cholesterol,” Philip Butler said.

“We find in the month of September we’re all as fit as fiddles from brushing and sweeping and walking,” he said.

“It’s work – and that’s what we all need at the present time to keep our minds off the recession.”

There are just two pubs in Abbeyshrule, “and both places will be buzzing for a few days now”, he predicted.

Gold Medal Awards

Category A

Abbeyshrule, Co Longford 312

Birdhill, Co Tipperary 310

Moynalty, Co Meath 310

Coolagown, Co Cork 309

Castlecoote, Co Roscommon 307

Rathbarry, Co Cork 307

Category B

Emly, Co Tipperary 310

Tallanstown, Co Louth 309

Clonegal, Co Carlow 308

Dromod, Co Leitrim 308

Ballynacally, Co Clare 307

Category C

Lismore, Co Waterford 308

Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow 307

Aughrim, Co Wicklow 307

Glenties, Co Donegal 304

Adare, Co Limerick 304

Straffan, Co Kildare 302

Category D

Clonakilty, Co Cork 309

Listowel, Co Kerry 307

Kenmare, Co Kerry 306

Kilrush, Co Clare 304

Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim 303

Kinsale, Co Cork 303

Bantry, Co Cork 302

Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan 302

Category E

Westport, Co Mayo 311

Skerries, Co Dublin 306

Category F

Killarney, Co Kerry 310

Category G

Ennis, Co Clare 311

Letterkenny, Co Donegal 310

Kilkenny, Co Kilkenny 309

Clonmel, Co Tipperary 299

Ballincollig, Co Cork 298

Tralee, Co Kerry 294

Carlow, Co Carlow 293

Malahide, Co Dublin 293

Category H

Dundalk, Co Louth 301

Drogheda, Co Louth 302

Silver Medal Awards

Category A

Eyeries, Co Cork 306

Keadue, Co Roscommon 306

Rathbarry, Co Cork 307

Newtowncashel, Co Longford 305

Castlecoote, Co Roscommon 307

Mountshannon, Co Clare 305

Category B

Glaslough, Co Monaghan 306

Ardmore, Co Waterford 305

Malin, Co Donegal 303

Knockbridge, Co Louth 303

Stradbally, Co Waterford 303

Rosscarbery, Co Cork 302

Sneem, Co Kerry

Category C

Raphoe, Co Donegal 297

Abbeyleix, Co Laois 297

Béal an Mhuirthead, Co Mayo 297

Category D

 Kill, Co Kildare 297

Category E

Dungarvan, Co Waterford 295

Dalkey, Co Dublin 293

Buncrana, Co Donegal 292

Category F

Trim, Co Meath 294

Tullamore, Co Offaly 293

Cobh, Co Cork 292

Category G

Portlaoise, Co Laois 289

Naas, Co Kildare 286

Category H

Waterford City, Co Waterford 288

Bronze Medal Awards
Category A

Ballinahown, Co Westmeath 301

Knightstown, Co Kerry 300

Tullahought, Co Kilkenny 298

Ballacolla, Co Laois 298

Ardpatrick, Co Limerick 298

Portmagee, Co Kerry 297

Category B

Castletown, Co Laois 301

Murrisk, Co Mayo 301

Carraig Airt, Co Donegal 300

Inistioge, Co Kilkenny 300

Milltown, Co Galway 299

Abbey, Co Galway 298

Geashill, Co Offaly 298

Kilsheelan, Co Tipperary 298

Tuamgraney, Co Clare 297

Clonbullogue, Co Offaly 297

Category C

Kilkee, Co Clare 296

Rathangan, Co Kildare 293

Cloontuskert, Co Roscommon 293

Ballina, Co Tipperary 293

Category D

Millstreet, Co Cork 295

Macroom, Co Cork 295

Ardee, Co Louth 295

Blackrock, Co Louth 294

Category E

Youghal, Co Cork 285

Cavan, Co Cavan 284

Newcastle West, Co Limerick 284

Category F Shankill, Co Dublin 290

Castlebar, Co Mayo 287

Category G

Newbridge, Co Kildare 280

Carrigaline, Co Cork 279

Leixlip, Co Kildare 272

Wexford, Co Wexford 272

*This article was amended on September 11th, 2012 to correct errors with some of the results.

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