Minister Humphreys announces Abbeyleix, Co Laois as winner of Ireland's Tidiest Small Town for 2021 with Mary White & Robbie Quinn of Abbeyleix Tidy Towns & Ray Kelly, SuperValu. Pic: Naoise Culhane
Abbeyleix Tidy Towns committee leaders are overjoyed at having been crowned Ireland's Tidiest Small Town for 2021.
The town was just "pipped at the post" for the overall award won by Ennis, only one point away.
Chairman Robbie Quinn and Secretary Mary White talked to the Leinster Express just after the national awards ceremony in the RDS on Friday, November 12.
"We were just one point behind the winner, at 354. We didn't know until we read the results book. Somebody said to us we were just pipped at the post. We will put that little bit more in next year and push on to win this for the county," Robbie said.
Abbeyleix was awarded an amazing five prizes including the Tidiest Small Town title. They also won the Climate Action award, the All Ireland Pollinator Plan county award, the Laois Gold Medal for the sixth year in a row, and the Regional Midland award.
"It's absolutely brilliant to win. It in recognition of all the hard work that goes on in the town, not just by the committee.
"This is the result of 30 years of hard work, starting with Mary's husband Reggie who worked tirelessly and laid the foundation. It's for the businesses and the community and all the hard working volunteers. It's for Laois in general, it puts us all on the map," he said.
Mary said the standard never slipped during the pandemic.
"It's brilliant. I can't give enough credit to the local businesses. Even during the lockdowns they never let the standard drop. We couldn't celebrate Daffodil Day this year so they turned the town yellow with window displays. It shows huge commitment," she said.
It takes far more than picking up litter and sweeping streets to win, with 6,500 trees planted in the town in the past year.
"We did a climate action plan for six months in lockdown and that was very topical. We worked on a sustainable energy plan and we created a NeighbourWood. We never had such a busy year.
"It's also down to the volunteers doing a weekly cleanup every Tuesday night, and others who come out at 5am. We have huge buy in from the community, it kept people's spirits up during covid.
"While it is hard work, there is great fun to be got in volunteering. And it's very rewarding to see these accolades come to our town. It's a great acknowledgement of the town itself," Mary said.
Robbie notes that Portlaoise won a Silver and Ballinakill the Best Endeavour Award, with Castletown and Ballacolla also award winners.
"A lot of Laois towns are all knocking on the door. This is a vote of confidence in the county and our vibrant communities and Tidy Towns groups," said Robbie.
They had a special thanks for Siobhán Duff and Suzanne Dempsey from Laois County Council.
"They set up a Laois Tidy Towns whatsapp group in lockdown to share information and it was absolutely brilliant," Mary said.
Cllr John Joe Fennelly also helped with refreshments after cleanups.
"He is our vice chairman and we want to thank him for all the choc ices. All the local clubs too paid their part, the GAA, the tennis, the soccer, everyone plays their part," said Robbie.
Living in one of the prettiest architectural towns in Ireland certainly helps too they said.
"We have a great canvas to work with. The De Vesci family left us with a great legacy. We also put in an architectural conservation plan to preserve the town, and we try to make a submission to every county development plan.
"The report also acknowledges that we are trying to become a cycling and walking centred town, to get people out of the cars and lorries," Robbie added.
The ceremony in the RDS was restricted to just two representatives so celebrations are set to follow for the entire committee this weekend.
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