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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 24 April, 2019

"It's magic": what this Tidy Towns judge has learned after almost four decades in the business

We spoke to Ann O’Leary, who has been judging Tidy Towns for 38 years, ahead of this year’s competition.


ANN O’LEARY HAS been a Tidy Towns judge for 38 years and will most likely continue until they tell her to stop, she says.

Currently, judges are visiting different parts of the country to assess this year’s competition. She says people usually know when you’re a judge coming in to mark their town even though it is not announced and is meant to be done discretely.

“It used to be more obvious,” she says. “If you’d have seen me 38 years ago going out I would have been laden down with books and maps and A4 pads…and then you had to bring the camera too.”

Now she says she only has to bring her iPhone, but that people still are aware that she’s judge but leave her to it, only engaging in small talk about the weather.

And while the origins of the competition started as a way to boost tourism, O’Leary, a former town planner, has noticed a shift in the criteria towards recycling, waste management and ways to combat climate change rather than focusing on purely cosmetic appearances.

She believes this is important so future generations can enjoy Irish towns and villages.

We spoke to her during this year’s competition to find out what she has learned during her time judging for Tidy Towns.

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