An article by Brian Hutton in the Irish Times on Saturday 31st October talks about fears that Tidy Towns could be lost forever if it is cancelled again next year.
The competition running for more than 60 years may be ‘lost forever’ if it is forced to be cancelled for a second year due to the Coronavirus, it has been warned.
Minister for Community Heather Humphreys cast doubt on the competition resuming in 2021. She said the go ahead would depend on the public health risks that would exist in the first three months of the new year.
The competition was cancelled in April this year due to the country being in lockdown. This decision left local Tidy Towns committees, of which there are more than 800, and Volunteers in dismay. Ms. Humphreys said the situation would be monitored on an ongoing basis by her department. A decision, along with any necessary precautions being put in place, would be made early in 2021.
The Tidy Towns competition which encourages communities to work together to improve their local areas was launched by the then tourist board Bord Failte in 1958 and later taken over by the government.
However, Labour’s community spokesman, Sean Sherlock urged the government to ensure it’s survival by giving it the go-ahead immediately as he said there was “no conceivable reason” for it not to take place next year. He said that if there was ever a time to facilitate the continuing work of the Tidy Towns committees, it was now. He went on to say it gives people a bit of hope and optimism in this dark and uncertain time and the work does not require people working in close proximity to each other.
Given that the profile of volunteers tends to be older or retired, there is a danger the voluntary effort could be lost forever due to a loss of momentum through the stalling of activities he said. The future of the competition depends on it proceeding over the next year and beyond and needs the volunteers to be kept together and to keep coming back. Mr. Sherlock went on to say that any further delay in the return of the competition would also take its toll on the mental health and social solidarity in countless communities.
He is fearful that the community effort may not come back as strong or could be lost forever and called on Ms. Humphreys to send a “clear signal from the government that people can drive on with the Tidy Towns effort”.
He added that Tidy Towns is a great way of bringing people together safely allowing people to get out of their houses and give them hope and a sense of togetherness to stave off loneliness and isolation. It may even encourage more people to get involved allowing them some social interaction and to connect to other people while contributing positively to their community.
SuperValu, the long-standing Tidy Towns sponsor remains committed to the competition its interim-managing director, Ray Kelly said. He added that SuperValu will continue to support the Tidy Towns competition and they look forward to celebrating the achievements of Tidy Towns volunteers across generations when it is safe to do so again.