President unveils a plaque to mark Birdhill winning the 2017 Tidy Towns Competition

Sat 19th May, 2018 | 15:00
location: Bridhill, Tipperary

Speech to celebrate Birdhill’s win in the Tidy Towns competition

Birdhill, Co. Tipperary, 19 May 2018

You are inspiring role models for us all and for your award winning efforts and for your wonderful achievement, as President of Ireland, I congratulate you and I thank you.

A Chairde, 

Tá an-áthas orm a bheith anseo i na Éin Fhinn inniu chun comhghairdeachas a dhéanamh libh as ucht Comórtas na mBailte Slachtmhara SuperValu 2017 a bhuachan. Go raibh míle maith agaibh as ucht na fíorchaoin fáilte a d’fhear sibh romham. Comhgháirdeachas mór le Cnocán an Éin Fhinn!

I am delighted to be with you today in Birdhill to celebrate your fantastic achievement in winning the 2017 National Tidy Towns competition. I was delighted to receive your kind invitation to visit your beautiful village; to witness first-hand the fruits of your labour and to share in your celebration of this worthy award, a long hoped for and well-deserved award for you all and one for which you have worked tirelessly over the years. 

I very much appreciate the wonderful welcome you have given me. This is a special occasion for us all, but most especially for you, the hard-working, enthusiastic and spirited community of Birdhill. Indeed, the excitement in the air is palpable; as is the happiness and justifiable pride that I can see reflected in the faces of everyone here today. It is wonderful for me to witness and such a welcoming ambiance testament to Birdhill’s wealth of goodwill and commitment to the community and to visitors alike. 

A small village with a big heart, where your skills, talents and creative ideas have been channelled to the great benefit of the whole community - the spirit of ‘meitheal’ is truly demonstrated. Winning this award didn’t happen by chance or coincidence but by your sheer hard work and commitment. And it is that commitment over many years which has given Birdhill a proud new chapter in its history. Your day of glory is much deserved! 

Your Trojan work has paid off in spades and it is through your dedication, commitment, your collaborative planning and your initiatives for environmental appreciation and care, that you are an example to us all. You have already won many awards for Ireland’s tidiest small town. You saw each of those as a spur to do even better. You built on those awards, learnt from them, became more skilled, more imaginative, more determined and here you are overall winners with the remarkable distinction of having achieved the highest mark in the competition.

Birdhill’s win has brought you respect and admiration from across the land. You have inspired people to come here to see and appreciate the visible results of your labour and they are stunning - but the respect you have earned goes deeper, much deeper. The highly esteemed Tidy Towns Award acknowledges and rewards towns and villages who demonstrate great understanding and appreciation for their environment, their heritage, and most importantly, their future. A community that is mindful of the challenges posed by climate change and who encourage and promote sustainable living is a community who will thrive and reap the rewards into the future.

Inclusiveness, embracing diversity, is also another very important factor, the blend of inter-generational and inter-cultural is a powerful tool in bringing creative and fresh thinking to the table. It also brings the most valuable result of all – the sense well-being, the sense of belonging. 

Strong communities like Birdhill, in which citizens, regardless of age, ethnicity or ability, work together and gain together, are the epitome of community spirit. It is abundantly evident how you have toiled together and I hope too that you have enjoyed many happy, companionable days and laughter together!

You have ticked every box – your community spirit is built and sustained by people of big hearts, generous with their time, their money, their skills, their enthusiasm, - you prove to us all the beautiful saying – ‘it is in giving that we receive’. 

Your enthusiasm and eagerness to pull together and pool resources, talent and energy in a selfless drive to work for the good of all the community. Your success last year, today and in the future, depend on the work and dedication of many groups and individuals, including the Tidy Towns Committee, the local authorities, schools, commercial interests and the people of the town. The success of that partnership is clear to see. It is a formidable resource now at the heart of your community, a real source of empowerment and self-confidence. This big win and all the other wins have created a past legacy of environmental care and concern to be proud of and to hand on to a new generation.

As I look around me, it is impressive to see how you have blended the conservation of old buildings with the provision of new amenities. Your innovative and creative thinking is to be admired and applauded. Your planting of a communal herb garden in the village park, which you have beautifully named - ‘Ogham Garden’, complete with help-yourself herb bags and scissors for home cooks is most impressive! It is a wonderful accomplishment which serves good on so many levels, both in terms of the great sense of community it brings, but also a wonderful and excellent example of sustainable living, environmental thoughtfulness, not to mention flavoursome food! 

It is heartwarming to learn so many of these fledgling trees were planted by the young children of Birdhill; trees that you will enjoy watching grow and flourish just as we enjoy watching our own young grow and flourish. Their environmental consciousness and talents are a joy to see and I know too the Tidy Towns judges were most impressed by collaborative work between the pupils of Birdhill National School and the local Youth Club, creating and installing a time capsule in your local park and also designing and painting the wonderful murals and eagle mosaic in your local park, a picturesque and tranquil haven which deservedly awarded you the highest accolade of ‘the jewel in the crown’.

Birdhill’s motto, ‘For the sake of the little village’, the immortal words of Matt the Thresher in Charles Kickham’s famous novel ‘Knocknagow’, captures perfectly your ethos and great sense of community and pride. The environmental and visual enhancements you have worked so hard to bring to fruition are clear to see and is testament to your enviable record in the Tidy Towns competition down through the years. You have made remarkable progress since first entering in 1991 and have held the title of Ireland’s Tidiest Village for three consecutive years from 2006 to 2008. Another great cause for celebration is that you also have the distinction of winning a Gold Medal in the European Entente Florale Competition, promoting a greener and more pleasant environment socially and culturally, both for natives and visitors, fostering tourism, employment and sustainable awareness. Your demonstration of respect for the landscape and your great achievements in highlighting to us all the importance of environmental and ecological mindfulness are to be commended.

May I also salute your many other wonderful initiatives which I know impressed the judges greatly; the eagle mosaic crafted by the local youth club, the treasure trail and information boards, your book exchange in the unused telephone box, and your Hitching Post - a marvellous and generous initiative for anyone wanting a lift to nearby Limerick...or perhaps even further along the road to Galway!

The Tidy Towns Competition is celebrating sixty years this year. For many of those years the people of Birdhill have worked hard and prayed hard for this day to come. Now it has arrived - Enjoy it! This award marks Birdhill out as a place of beauty above all others and, on this glorious sunny day, it is easy to see why. You are inspiring role models for us all and for your award winning efforts and for your wonderful achievement, as President of Ireland, I congratulate you and I thank you.

Mar fhocal scoir, may I also thank the members of Birdhill Tidy Towns Committee, Chairman Denis Floyd, and Tipperary County Council for its ongoing support to the town over the years. 

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir, guím gach rath ar bhur gcuid oibre, agus comhghairdeachas libh arís.