Offaly communities impress 'Pride of Place' judges

Express Reporter


Express Reporter


A number of Offaly community groups have welcomed judges from the national Pride of Place competition in recent weeks.

For the 17th consecutive year, Co-operation Ireland, the Local Authority partner, Offaly County Council and headline sponsor IPB Insurance were proud to present the annual Pride of Place competition, the original community recognition award.

The national results will be revealed later this year.

The competition has enjoyed tremendous success and continues to grow in terms of prestige and popularity.

The purpose of the competition is to acknowledge the work being done every day by communities all over the island of Ireland. It promotes and celebrates the best in community development and recognises the selfless efforts of people in making their local neighbourhoods better places to live, work and socialise.

It is an All-Island competition whereby local authorities from across the island of Ireland nominate groups in their communities who they feel have made a significant contribution to improving their neighbourhood, working collectively.

This year Offaly County Council nominated Birr Tidy Towns, representing the Birr Municipal District; (in the Urban Neighbourhood category); St. Brigids Social Club Cloneyhurke, representing the Edenderry Municipal District (in the Community Wellbeing Initiative category) and St. Colmcille’s Community Centre Committee Durrow, representing the Tullamore Municipal District (in the Population 300 – 1,000 category).

Birr Tidy Towns was established in 1984 and today there are 20 members actively involved in the Birr Tidy Town committee. The members are made up of representation from the towns various areas and estates. The subcommittees of Birr Tidy Towns include Wildlife and Nature Amenities, Built Heritage, litter Control & Waste Management/Sustainability.

Birr Tidy Towns are a member of the Offaly Tidy Towns Network which was established by the Community and Culture Section of Offaly County Council. Birr Tidy Towns runs various events throughout the year e.g. Good Friday clean up, Super Sweep Sunday, dancing at the Cottages during Vintage week, participating in the annual August parade as part of Vintage week and running the Santa in Birr event. The participation of the group in various Tidy Towns competitions have resulted in new members joining the Tidy Towns committee.

Birr has a large ethnic community and their groups have been actively involved in the Clubs Competition since its inception. Working side by side with local community groups, schemes and Local Authority plays a fundamental role with all their endeavours and hope to continue their hard work keeping the town clean and tidy for all to enjoy.

St. Brigid’s Social Club, Cloneyhurke was founded in 1975 by a group of approximately 10 people. There was a need for a community space for people to gather for meetings and social activities. The Community Centre was built by voluntary labour and a group of six trustees travelled around Offaly & Laois fundraising through ticket sales. A drama group under the production of Matt Colgan RIP was set up shortly after the inception of the committee. The Social Club apart from hosting darts, volleyball, table tennis and snooker tournaments, has also won many awards down through the years.

The group works closely with other community groups and strives to enhance community well-being through the provision of much needed social inclusion services. Currently, there are active retirement groups, a book club, art & crafts organisations and many other Community Group using the centre. The highlight of the social calendar for St. Brigid’s is the Senior Citizens Party which caters for 80 people each Christmas.

St. Colmcille’s Community Centre in the heart of the Durrow Community plays an integral role for people of all ages in the community. The current committee was established in 2014 with a mandate to fund and fully restore the Community Centre building which will be open and available for the Pride of Place judging visit in June 2019. The Community centre plays host to many activities in the locality; Progressive 25, Irish Set Dancing. GAA Meetings, Local Lottery, drama, Christmas & Funeral events and Communion celebrations.

Durrow Hall Committee works very closely with neighbouring groups such as Durrow GAA and Durrow High Cross Committee. It is this understanding of Community values and partnership that has seen St. Colmcille’s Community Centre achieve so
much in a relatively short space of time.

Judging for the three Offaly entries took place on June 17/18. Mr. Donal Connolly and Mr. William Beatty from Pride of Place had the difficult task of running the rule over the three entries.

First up on the afternoon of Monday, June 17 was Birr Tidy Towns who welcomed the judges to a reception in The Council Chamber of Birr Municipal District Offices, with an introduction to the partners and sponsors followed by a presentation about the group. Following refreshments while being entertained by St. Brendan’s Boys NS Choir and a brief visit to Birr Library, the judges completed a tour of Birr on a horse and carriage! They visited various landmarks en route, including Birr Theatre & Arts Centre; The Growery and Birr Castle. The final stop was a visit to the redeveloped picnic area on the Banagher Road, officially opened by cutting the ribbon by Cllr Peter Ormond, Cathaoirleach OCC and the judges.

The following day, Tuesday, June 18, was the turn of St. Brigid’s Social Club, Cloneyhurke to host the Judges. A bustling, lively community hall awaited the judges where they met local athlete Nicole Turner, gold medal-winning Paralympian and the proceedings commenced with a presentation by Cllr. Eddie Fitzpatrick, OCC outlining the history of the club and highlighting the numerous events that take place there like Active Retirement Group, Art Classes and Book Club not forgetting the
Senior Citizens Christmas Party which takes place annually.

Local businesses from Garryhinch, Cloneyhurke and the surrounding area provided some fantastic exhibits which the judges viewed at length, as did community-based activities such as Local Text Alert, Cloneyhurke National School, Meals on Wheels, Gracefield GAA and Garryhinch Golf Club to name just a few.

Following refreshments, the judges were given a tour of the community. They then returned to the hall where everyone was treated to a fantastic set of Irish dancing by a local family.

In the afternoon the focus switched to the Tullamore Municipal District entry, St. Colmcille’s Community Centre Committee Durrow. Proceedings commenced in Durrow Abbey where exhibits from local groups were displayed, including Durrow High Cross Committee; Graveyard Committee; Ceili Club; Community Alert; Parents Association; Pattern Committee; Durrow Active Retirement group; Durrow Childcare and Durrow GAA.

Judges were treated to a 30-minute DVD highlighting the history of Durrow, the annual Pattern Day celebrations and the details of the famous Durrow High Cross. Afterwards, the judges chatted with the community groups and volunteers, learning about the rich history of the area and the community involvement.

The dedication and commitment shown by all involved to make their community a better place to live and visit really is inspirational. Well done to all involved. The results of the competition are due to be announced on November 30, 2019. All the entrants are wished every success in the competition by Offaly County Council. As the Judges have already stated during their visit, ‘every entrant is already a winner!’