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A Chairde,

I am delighted to announce the launch of the 2017 SuperValu TidyTowns competition. The competition, which is a Government initiative, has been encouraging community effort for nearly 60 years and I am pleased to note that even in its 59th year, it is as popular as ever. I hope, in 2017, we can continue to build on this success.

The competition inspires a huge amount of voluntary effort in towns and villages across the country. Being a volunteer with TidyTowns allows individuals to practice their passion for the good of their community, whether that passion concerns the built environment, landscaping, sustainable living, and local wildlife or organising a litter pick; there is a place for it in TidyTowns. Planning future projects plays a huge part in TidyTowns also; all of the community can feed into this process. I encourage all members of the community to work with their TidyTowns committee to encourage sustainable change, where volunteers work together to make their village, town or city the very best it can be.

I was delighted this year when, after a competitive process, SuperValu was confirmed as sponsor of the competition for the next 5 years until 2021. The Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is looking forward to working with SuperValu and building on the success of the past 25 years. I thank SuperValu for their steadfast support for the competition. The SuperValu TidyTowns competition is a terrific example of how a public private partnership can work for the good of all in our society.

This competition is highly reliant on the effort of volunteers and it is important that we continue to recruit new volunteers. In this regard my Department has been working in partnership with Volunteer Ireland to grow voluntary effort; their website www.volunteer.ie matches members of the public interested in volunteering with voluntary opportunities in their own areas. Sligo is the 2017 European Volunteering Capital and throughout the year the county will showcase and celebrate acts of volunteering in all its forms and encourage people across Ireland and Europe to volunteer. That an Irish county is the European Volunteering Capital is not a surprise as Ireland already has a very strong culture of volunteering and the fabric of our society is the better for it.

Tourists come to Ireland to appreciate our natural heritage and culture, and tourism is very important to our economy. A particularly significant trait in Irish culture is that it is in our nature to welcome new people, whether tourists or new residents. Entrants to the SuperValu TidyTowns competition have improved the environment in which we live and have helped to foster Ireland’s image abroad. Not only does the competition play an important role in how our country looks, but those who live locally have a better appreciation and pride in their own communities. This makes a town more welcoming and leaves visitors with a wish to return. Generations of TidyTowns volunteers have helped in presenting our country in the best possible light, as a clean and green destination to visit. These efforts build better, more inclusive communities; benefitting the economy and our society as a whole.

In addition to the main competition, there are also thirteen Special Award categories that you can enter. A welcome addition to the Special Awards this year is the ‘Waters and Communities Award’ which recognises our appreciation for our waterways. These Special Awards are a welcome and intrinsic part of the SuperValu TidyTowns competition and I would like to encourage all entrants to the main competition, to consider participating in some of the Special Award categories also. You can see details of all the Special Awards in your entry form.

Finally, I would like to thank our main sponsor SuperValu, the sponsors of all our Special Awards, our adjudicators and in particular all the volunteers in the towns and villages across Ireland who have entered the competition down through the years for their continued support for this wonderful competition.

I wish all our entrants the very best of luck in 2017.

Go n-éirí an t-ádh agus an aimsir libh!

Michael Ring T.D., Minister of State for Regional Economic Development