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Dublin: 16°C Tuesday 26 October 2021

'We're out cleaning every day': 24 hours on litter patrol in Ireland's Tidiest Small Town

Young and old, everyone in Clonakilty has a part to play in SuperValu TidyTowns.

Source: SuperValuIreland/YouTube

“LAST NIGHT SOMEONE kicked over those flower pots,” Clonakilty local Catherine O’Connor says, pointing at three two-foot high buckets. It happens from time to time, she tells us, in a tourism-heavy town like this.

“Someone spotted them driving in this morning and we had Marleen the gardener on the case straight away.”

Clonakilty is known for being one of Ireland’s prettiest towns, but at this time of year it’s particularly important that it look easy on the eye.

And despite the hordes of tourists that pour into the West Cork seaside town during the summer months – it was named Place Of The Year 2017 by the Royal Institute Of Architects Ireland – the streets are litter-free.

clon litter 3 The Junior Litter Patrol in action in Clonakilty. Source: Michael McCarthy

Why? Well, it’s currently SuperValu TidyTowns judging season, meaning an anonymous judge could arrive to score the town on its litter levels, biodiversity and use of open spaces at any minute.

Catherine is co-chair of this year’s committee, along with fellow Clonakilty native Mike Deasy. Clonakilty has been involved in SuperValu TidyTowns since the late 1970s. In 1999, it took home the national award for Ireland’s Tidiest Town, and last year won Ireland’s Tidiest Small Town.

For a small town in a relatively isolated part of the country, SuperValu TidyTowns has put Clonakilty on the map.

“Back when we started, the town was grey, all the paint was grey,” says committee secretary Noreen Minihane, who has been involved since the inception of Clonakilty TidyTowns in the late 1970s.

“One of the things we said from the start was that if you want pride in your place, you have to take an interest in it. It started from that,” says Noreen.

As well as three days of clean-ups – Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, plus the odd Saturday on Inchydoney beach – there are school kids litter-picking daily during the summer.

Anything they miss, local volunteer Noel Walsh is sure to spot from his custom-made litter bike, featuring a trailer with two bags and a ‘no dog fouling’ sign.

Clonakilty accepting the award for Ireland's Tidiest Small Town 2017 Source: Naoise Culhane

“In Clonakilty, SuperValu TidyTowns wouldn’t work without the volunteers,” says Catherine.

It’s all about partnership really, from SuperValu to the Community Employment programme to the schools we have on board. It’s just a fantastic partnership.

This year, SuperValu celebrates its 28th year as sponsor of SuperValu TidyTowns. SuperValu is at the heart of local communities all over Ireland, and the competition is Ireland’s leading community initiative. Hear more stories from SuperValu TidyTowns communities here.

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