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'Heritage in Tidy Towns' Seminar

Heritage in Towns Seminar

Pictured at the free seminar on ‘Heritage in Tidy Towns’ in the Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny on Saturday, March 24 are (from left to right): Joseph Gallagher, County Donegal Heritage Office, Donegal County Council Cultural Services; Colm Murray, Architecture Officer, The Heritage Council; Debbie Nesbitt, National Adjudicator, ‘Tidy Towns’ Competition; Dinny McGinley T.D., Minister of State, Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht; Suzanne Tinney, Waste Awareness Officer, Donegal County Council; Sharon Eastwood, Woodrow Sustainable Solutions; and Cllr. Dessie Larkin, Chairperson, Donegal County Development Board.


Over sixty people representing ‘Tidy Towns’ groups from all over County Donegal attended the free seminar on ‘Heritage in Tidy Towns’ in Letterkenny on Saturday, March 24. The seminar, which is an action of the County Donegal Heritage Plan, was organised by the County Donegal Heritage Office and the Donegal County Museum, Cultural Services, Donegal County Council in association with the County Donegal Heritage Forum and The Heritage Council. Opening the seminar Dinny McGinley T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, said “The built, cultural and natural heritage of a town or village contributes significantly to its character and appearance, and to its attractiveness as a place in which to live, work and visit. The community spirit and civic pride demonstrated by ‘Tidy Towns’ groups can do much to conserve the heritage of our towns and villages.”


He highlighted the role that The Heritage Council plays from providing independent advice to his department - the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht - on heritage issues to providing invaluable support to communities to realise their local heritage projects. Over €1 million was invested by The Heritage Council in heritage initiatives in County Donegal in the last six years through its grants programmes and through the implementation of the County Donegal Heritage Plan in partnership with Donegal County Council and the County Donegal Heritage Forum. The Heritage Council also sponsors the Heritage Award in the ‘Tidy Towns’ competition which is awarded each year to individuals or groups within the community that have helped to promote or enhance access to, or knowledge of, heritage in their locales. He also noted independent research commissioned by The Heritage Council last year that demonstrated that Ireland’s historic environment supports more than 30,000 full-time jobs and accounts for one-fifth of total visitor expenditure.


Guest speakers at the seminar addressed a variety of heritage issues and ‘Tidy Towns’ competition criteria. Colm Murray, Architecture Officer with The Heritage Council emphasised the need for ‘Tidy Towns’ groups to conserve the built heritage and streetscapes in their towns and villages, and outlined the support available from The Heritage Council. An overview of the ‘Tidy Towns’ adjudication reports shows that the most successful towns in the ‘Tidy Towns’ competition are acknowledged as valuing, raising awareness of, conserving and promoting their historical and heritage buildings. Sharon Eastwood from Woodrow Sustainable Solutions and a national adjudicator in the ‘Tidy Towns’ competition demonstrated how wildlife could be incorporated into ‘Tidy Towns’ projects. She highlighted the rich natural heritage that County Donegal possesses and encouraged groups to find out what was in their communities as a basis for awareness raising, conservation and promotion.


Suzanne Tinney, Waste Awareness Officer, Donegal County Council addressed the issue of waste minimisation and outlined several strategies that ‘Tidy Towns’ groups could employ to prevent waste. Many ‘Tidy Towns’ groups place an emphasis on recycling in this category but that is only one of several strategies that groups could adopt. This was seen as one category in which ‘Tidy Towns’ groups in County Donegal could improve their competition marks. Maire Áine Gardiner of Fáilte Ireland gave a sneak preview of the new Fáilte Ireland ‘Tourism Towns’ initiative launched in Dublin on Monday, March 26 and stressed the importance of heritage to the tourism industry. Indeed, it has been shown that for every €1 spent by The Heritage Council on heritage contributes €4.4 to the Irish tourist industry through increased tourism revenues. Debbie Nesbitt, a national adjudicator for the ‘Tidy Towns’ competition, gave an adjudicator’s perspective on the competition and advice on the adjudication process. She pointed out that groups wishing to enter this year’s competition needed to submit their applications by May 25 and that adjudication would take place between June 1 and July 15. Further details are available at:


Groups attending the ‘Heritage in Tidy Towns’ seminar included representatives from Annagry, Ballyliffin, Ballyshannon, Buncrana, Bundoran, Burtonport, Carrigart, Dungloe, Fahan, Falcarragh, Fintown, Glenties, Gola, Kilcar, Kilmacrennan, Letterkenny, Lifford, Loughanure, Ramelton, Raphoe, Rathmullan and Stranorlar. “We’re delighted with the interest and enthusiasm that ‘Tidy Towns’ groups from all across the county have demonstrated in their local heritage,” said Joseph Gallagher, County Donegal Heritage Officer. “It’s essential that the considerable voluntary efforts of ‘Tidy Towns’ groups in relation to heritage in their communities are used to best effect. The ‘Heritage in Tidy Towns’ seminar was an opportunity to disseminate information, advice and best practice to these groups so that in valuing, raising awareness of, conserving, enhancing and promoting their heritage, they could also maximise their competition marks in several categories.”


Participating towns and villages in the ‘Tidy Towns’ competition are awarded marks on the built environment, landscaping, wildlife and natural amenities, overall development approach, litter control, tidiness, waste minimisation, residential areas, roads/streets/back areas and overall general impression. Adjudication reports from 2011 have highlighted several issues that ‘Tidy Towns’ groups could help address including the conservation of historic buildings, not allowing the dereliction of aspects of the built heritage, the need to retain traditional shopfronts and hand-painted signage, discouraging inappropriate plastic and neon signage, avoiding over-signage, ensuring street furniture (such as litter bins) are of an appropriate scale and not over-sized, acknowledging the archaeological heritage in towns and villages, arresting the spread of invasive species along roads, and the repair of stone walls and conservation of native hedgerows. Further information on the ‘Tidy Towns’ competition is available at:


An Action of the County Donegal Heritage Plan 

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