Community comes together to make Loughrea shine

The scouts cleaning up the car park on Main St, Loughrea.

The scouts cleaning up the car park on Main St, Loughrea.

With the annual Tidy Towns frenzy taking over the nation, Loughrea's chances of taking home a coveted Tidy Towns award is looking likely, thanks to the stalwart efforts of the Loughrea Tidy Towns Committee and the wider community.

"I am a keen gardener," explains Isabelle Ní Dhuinn, chairperson of the Loughrea Tidy Town Committee. "Because of this, I approach the town like a garden, and a good garden has balance.

"It has an area that is cultivated, sculpted and created, and other areas which are untouched, and allowed to grow wild. To me, Loughrea town is that cultivated garden, and the surrounding areas like Corry's Field are places you don't touch."

Any recent visitor to the town of Loughrea in east Co Galway, would agree that this approach has paid off, but the improvements ushered in by the Loughrea Tidy Towns Committee goes beyond beautifying the town's buildings and streets, it has transformed how the community interacts with their home town, its buildings, the landscape around it, and each other.

"In Ireland, there seems to be a loss of the sense of community, and it is something that has been lost everywhere, so for us, the work we are doing is building up that sense of community in Loughrea.

"When we are out working, people notice us and stop to chat and they want to be involved. We often get asked 'can I help?', people of all ages and cultures coming together and it is so nice to see."

Residents of Fahy Gardens proud to do their bit.

Community engagement

A group that has long been established in Loughrea, the committee has gone through a transformation of its own, with Isabelle being elected as chair in June 2023. Over the last 11 months, Isabelle and the committee have introduced local projects and schemes, as well as engaging with the local community, involving individual residents of the town in their plans to clean up Loughrea.

"We have two designated litter picking days, Wednesdays at 7pm and Saturday at 11am, but for those who can't take part in these designated days, we just ask them to do it in their own time.

"That is how we have transformed the place. People will see others doing it, or stop to talk to someone who is pulling weeds and picking up litter and it is like a litter domino effect, and it is brilliant."

Engaging with local groups

While the Loughrea Tidy Towns Committee have introduced a variety of schemes and projects to improve the town, the adoption and participation by local businesses and community groups have been vital in making them a success. An example of this engagement is the committee's 'Proud to Keep Loughrea Tidy' initiative, which requests that local businesses take responsibility for the front of their premises in the town. The initiative has been a roaring success with 'practically all businesses' participating in the clean-up.

Owners of M.J King, Loughrea, Carmel and Paddy, proudly showing their 'Proud to Keep Loughrea Tidy' award given to them by the Tidy Towns Committee.

Another vital ally in the mission to make-over Loughrea, has been the local garden and home shop, McD's, with Sean McD donating a substantial number of Irish pollinator bulbs, as well as facilitating the sale of reduced price window boxes for buildings in the town. Providing a treat for both the bees and the people of Loughrea, the flowering bulbs have brightened up pockets of Loughrea. Naomh Breandan Credit Union Limited has also helped to facilitate this transformation.

With a large majority of the schools in the town participating in the clean-up, Isabelle and the committee are also supported by an army of scouts from the 3rd Loughrea Scout Group, who are raring at the bit to get their hands dirty and earn their community and biodiversity badges. Working with the committee since January, Tús workers, Bernard Broderick and Tommy Hannon, have been a 'game changer' in the town's transformation.

A powerful ally for the committee and bringing their visions to life, has been Galway County Council, who Isabelle praises for their willingness to help out and engage with projects in Loughrea.

Tús Workers, Bernard Broderick and Tommy Hannon.

The competition and future plans

With more than 30,000 towns across Ireland participating in Tidy Towns, the judging process is summed up in one secret visit to the area by a judge during the month of June, with the winning town due to be announced in July.

Regardless of the competition outcome, the committee will continue on its mission to facilitate and encourage change across the community, with talks of establishing a Loughrea Tidy Towns Youth Committee, one which is inclusive and welcoming to similar minded young people of all walks of life, in the works.

 

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