Hugs, delight and tears as winners are announced


AWARDS CEREMONY:THERE WERE gasps followed by screams of delight from the Westport table at the annual Tidy Towns awards in Dublin's Burlington Hotel last night .

Amid hugs, television lights and tears, the Westport Tidy Towns Committee saw its efforts pay off for the third time in seven years.

Accepting the award from Minister for the Environment John Gormley, Eithne Larkin declared Tidy Towns in the Co Mayo town to be "a whole- community movement". She was, she said, "so pleased and privileged" to collect the award on behalf of the people of Westport.

It was the 50th anniversary of the Tidy Towns competition, and for the 1,000 or so Tidy Towns delegates it was like nothing less than a night at the Oscars. The Burlington Hotel ballroom was back in full swing bedecked in a purple hue, with purple flowers on tables lit by candlelight .

It was a long evening for the delegates who started to arrive at the hotel for a drinks reception at 4pm. The announcement of the overall winner came almost exactly four hours later and dancing was set to continue until the small hours of this morning.

Indeed, such was the long list of county awards, medals, regional awards and others that by six o'clock compere Marty Whelan was asking the audience: "Has anybody not got an award yet."

It was also a night for celebrities and as the deadline for RTÉ's hour-long live broadcast loomed the audience was entertained by Clint Velour and the Camenbert Quartet, while Ryan Tubridy good- naturedly shook delegates hands in the foyer.

As the proceedings went "live" Mary Kennedy of the regional affairs programme Nationwide introduced the nominees for the Tidiest Village award and Marty Whelan stepped in again to declare Birdhill, Co Tipperary, the winner. To loud cheers, Ted Moynihan of the Birdhill Tidy Towns Committee said it was "an amazing achievement for a small village on the N7".

Next it was the turn of the Tidiest Small Village Award and as the town of Kenmare was declared the winner there was more screaming and dancing. Noel Crowley of Kenmare Tidy Towns said it was all thanks to the "people at home".

Tubridy then stepped forward to present the Schools Award to the Boys National School, Duleek, Co Meath, and it was then time for the expected battle between Killarney, Co Kerry, and Westport.

The room erupted with cat-calls and clapping as Mr Gormley announced Westport the winner.

Next it was the turn of RTÉ newsreader Eileen Dunne to declare Ennis the winner of the title Ireland's Tidiest Large Urban Centre. Margaret Meehan of Ennis Tidy Towns committee thanked the local committee, chamber of commerce and town council.

Then it was time for a special 50th anniversary award, and Mary Thompson of Glenties Tidy Towns said she was delighted to accept it for the people of Glenties who put in so much hard work over the last 50 years.


National Award Winner

Westport, Co Mayo

Tidiest Village

Birdhill, Co Tipperary

Tidiest Small Town

Kenmare, Co Kerry

Tidiest Large Town

Westport, Co Mayo

Tidiest Large Urban Centre

Ennis, Co Clare