President Michael D Higgins and his wife, Sabina, were in Moynalty this morning to mark the village's 2013 National Tidy Towns win. The script of his speech is reproduced here.
Tá an-áthas orm a bheith anseo i Mhaigh nEalta inniu chun comhghairdeachas a dhéanamh libh as ucht Comórtas na mBailte Slachtmhara 2013 a bhuachan. Go raibh míle maith agaibh as ucht na fíorchaoin fáilte a d’fhear sibh romham.
I am delighted to be in Moynalty today to congratulate you on winning the Tidy Towns Competition 2013. May I thank you for the kind welcome you have extended me.
Today we celebrate your community spirit, your hard work and your dedication. The commemorative plaque which will be unveiled later on will remain as a testament to what your community can, and has achieved, when you come together and work towards a common goal.
You have worked so hard for this award, entering the Tidy Towns competition for 54 of the 56 years that it has been in existence, and you have steadily improved your marks year on year.
Finally last year, you received the ultimate accolade. A total of 832 towns took part in the Tidy Towns Competition 2013 but Moynalty has come through to gain the title of ‘Ireland’s Tidiest Village’.
Every year, in just under a thousand towns across the country, neighbours and friends come together in a concerted effort of co-operation and seek to enhance the town in which they live and work; a noble task, to re-imagine their surroundings and realise the potential of their neighbourhoods, parishes, villages and towns.
The Tidy Towns Competition is a great example of the transformative power of active citizenship; we see how that spirit can lead on to regeneration and renewal – creating a shared vision and a better environment built.
The respect in which the citizens of Moynalty hold their naturally beautiful surroundings is obvious from your promotion of natural heritage and in being one of the first places in Ireland to have a school built to PassivHaus standard.
So around us today we can see the impressive end result of all your hard work: the flowers and plants; the freshly painted walls and railings; the tidy streets and well kept gardens. And, like all successful creations, the brushstrokes are carefully hidden, leading a casual observer to imagine that the outcome was easily and effortlessly achieved.
However, anyone who is familiar with taking part in the Tidy Towns competition will know that behind the scenes lies not just the strength of community spirit but many, many hours of hard work and exertion. It cannot always have been easy to find the time or indeed the energy to take part in cleaning projects, or to source and raise funding, devise communications campaigns, carry out maintenance tasks and, in so many other ways, provide the all important brushstrokes that make up the completed picture.
But each day and each week you found that time; you came together in a spirit of cooperation contributing your skills, talent and labour into transforming this town into the home place of which you can be truly proud.
Today, we celebrate a version of Moynalty that runs so much deeper than the lovely surroundings that you have created in order to win this accolade. We celebrate a version of Moynalty as a community, one that is founded on an active, inclusive citizenship; a community prepared to turn the best of their ideas into living realities; and a people who understand the importance of a place that can be shared and enjoyed by all its residents.
The Tidy Towns competition of course is not simply about presenting a good surface view of a town. It is about stimulating sustainable change and encouraging the town dwellers to take ownership of their neighbourhoods and to work together to make them the very best they can be.
A significant part of the competition is its focus on an overall developmental approach, or five year plan, ensuring that when the judges are gone and the initial momentum is over, the participants remain committed to contributing, in practical and creative ways, to the development and sustainability of their towns. True change requires a long term and rounded view of what is needed to sustain a healthy and flourishing community.
Moynalty (Maigh nEalta as Gaeilge) translates to the Plain of the Flocks – an appropriate name for this village nested amid mature woodland and agricultural landscapes. The place is known nationwide for its Steam Threshing Festival held every August, an important link to times past. The Festival marks the end of one agricultural year, when the land lies dormant, until spring comes again and the cycle of growth starts anew. It is a time of year when the fruits of the year’s labour are harvested, just like you did last September when you were announced as the Tidiest Town in Ireland, thus harvesting the fruits of many years work and innovation.
Volunteers are, of course crucial for an achievement such as yours. It can be difficult perhaps for an individual to envisage what impact he or she can have on society as a whole, but when one works as part of a group at a local level so much is attainable. The volunteers who take part in the Tidy Towns competition are people who have a sense of social concern, in addition to pride in their common place. Volunteering is a valuable contribution to the ideals of democracy, social inclusion and active citizenship. The giving of time, often a precious resource, to others strengthens the fabric of our societies and defines the communities and the republic in which we live. Without active volunteers, communities cannot flourish.
The philosophy of the Tidy Towns competition is powerful in its simplicity. It continues to evolve, embracing change while respecting all that generations of our families, friends and neighbours have done to add value to our lives. It provides a catalyst which contributes to binding communities together — young and old, new comers and people whose families have been living locally for generations.
It is particularly encouraging to all of us to see young people involved in their community. The purchase of a paper briquette maker by the junior committee – allowing for the re-use of newspapers as a fuel source – is an indication of how seriously they are committed to taking care of their environment. It is important to engage the talent and creativity of our young people here and now – they are a huge resource in the present moment, not just a potential resource for the future.
May I congratulate the people of Moynalty on your success in other competitions also: the Silver Medal in the Entente Florale competition in 2004 and “Ireland’s Best Kept Town” in 2011. Moynalty has been a frontrunner in both the Pride of Place and Anti-Litter League competitions, sponsored by Meath County Council.
You were rightly commended on your success in the international LivCom Awards held in the United Arab Emirates in 2012, where you received a Silver Medal Award. The adjudicator was not surprised that Moynalty was named as “one of the most liveable communities in the world.” I wish you well when you represent Ireland in this year’s international Communities in Bloom competition.
The strength of your vibrant and active community is also evidenced in the more than twenty sports, culture, heritage and other community based clubs and organisations here in the village.
Mar fhocal scoir, tig liom arís mo bheannachtaí a thabhairt don uile duine a d’obair go díograsach agus go tiomanta agus a thug a gcuid ama, a gcuid scileanna agus a gcuid acmhainní go deonach i dtreo na mórghnímh seo – muintir na háite, scoileanna, gnólachtaí áitiúla, Comhairle Contae na Mí agus gníomhaireachtaí poiblí eile: is féidir libh a bheith bródúil as bhur gcuidiú.
[To finish may I, once again, salute the dedication and commitment of all of you who volunteered your time, skills and resources in working towards this great achievement – residents, schools, local businesses, Meath County Council, and other public agencies: you can all be very proud of your contribution.]
From tomorrow on, the commemorative plaque will be proudly displayed in Moynalty, as a reminder of your achievement. I have no doubt that it will inspire those who follow, encouraging them to maintain the exceptional standards which you have set.
I would like to thank you again for inviting me to share this special day with you. Enjoy the occasion. I have no doubt that the hard work will continue as usual tomorrow. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir, guím gach rath ar bhur gcuid oibre, agus comhghairdeachas libh arís.
See a clip from the President's speech: