Athlone has been judged the second cleanest town in Ireland in the final IBAL litter rankings for 2018.
Just pipped by Fermoy in Cork for top honours in the latest results, there is certainly reason to celebrate for Athlone as the town is ranked 'Cleaner than European Norms’ coming second of 40 surveyed countrywide.
An Taisce, who carry out the surveys on behalf of the Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) group, commented that this was one of Athlone’s best results in the League, with eight out of the ten sites surveyed getting the top litter grade.
“Athlone Civic Centre was an exceptionally good site – not only was it clear of litter throughout but the overall presentation was excellent.
“The residential area of Woodville (Grange and Green) was excellent – clearly the residents are very house proud as this area was spotless throughout. City Quarter apartments & environs was another excellent site – it presented very well and was clear of litter,” the report added.
Hailing Athlone's achievement, Cllr Aengus O'Rourke reminded the public that just three years ago the town was 'Moderately Littered' back in 34th place, and this remarkable turnaround is no accident.
"Anyone who knows me knows that I am always making a case to council for more resources so that we can continually work to raise our standards as a large, growing town. I have always said that we should be aiming to compete with the likes of Galway, Kilkenny, Westport and Killarney when it comes to how we present and maintain our town. This result confirms that we are getting there and great credit is due to everyone concerned.
"It is no accident that we have achieved this 2nd place spot with IBAL and it is no accident either that Athlone won a Bronze Medal two years running in the national Tidy Towns Awards. There is finally an awareness out there with the general public and with business owners that we all have a responsibility when it comes to how we present our town.
“Up to very recently I would get phone calls from business operators in Athlone asking me to organise for the council to remove weeds from the front of their shops. Now with our recently launched Business Champions initiative, working with Athlone Tidy Towns and the council there is a growing awareness that we are all responsible for our own little patch, and that is how it should be. The removal of litter or weeds from outside a premises is the responsibility of the owner of that premises,” he added, thanking the council, volunteers, Athlone Tidy Towns, Athlone Business Champions and the many other groups who work hard to ensure the town looks well.
He finished by saying that the town's effort should not stop there and everyone should be aiming for top spot next timea around, as well as improving the ratings in the national Tidy Towns competition.
Athlone's achievement is all the more noteworthy when you look at the results of other neighbouring towns; while also 'Cleaner than European Norms' Longford is in 11th place, Roscommon is in joint 14th and is 'Clean to European Norms' and Portlaoise is back in 21st. Mullingar slips to 24th place and Ballinalsoe lags even further behind in 33rd 'Moderately Littered'. Galway city – Ballybane is judged 'Seriously Littered' as is Dublin's North Inner City.
Just under 90% of towns surveyed were deemed clean in the last survey of the year, a slight improvement on 2017, with Athlone and Killarney finishing just behind Fermoy, the overall winner. While almost all of Ireland’s main towns are clean, pockets of the cities continue to be littered and are not improving, a spokesperson for IBAL indicated.
Disadvantaged urban areas occupied the bottom five places in the rankings. “Three years ago we deliberately shone a spotlight on specific city areas in the hope that the attention would spur councils and communities into action,” commented Conor Horgan of IBAL.
“It is fair to say we have seen no noticeable improvement in any of these areas - nor have we seen much by way of substantial measures to them turn around.”
“The historic development of large areas of social housing has shaped a "them and us" society and the gap is widening. Litter is a symptom of a greater malaise and keeping these areas as clean and well presented as the rest of a city would over time have significant benefits. We need local authorities to take the lead,” Mr Horgan stated.
As runners-up, Athlone and Killarney will each receive a number of Norway maple trees to enhance the local environment, courtesy of the Irish Tree Centre in Cork at a ceremony today.
Athlone is the second cleanest town in Ireland
Monday, 7th January, 2019 11:46am