Dáil debates

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Other Questions.

Sustainable Development Strategy.

4:00 pm

Paul McGrath (Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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Question 59: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will make a statement on the progress to date on the national tidy towns competition. [22568/06]

Photo of Batt O'KeeffeBatt O'Keeffe (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The national Tidy Towns competition for 2006 is now under way. Approximately 650 towns and villages from across Ireland will participate this year. In addition to the main competition, this year also sees a special Tidy Towns initiative for primary schools and over 200 schools have registered. The results will be announced on 4 September at the national awards ceremony in Dublin Castle.

Almost 50 years after it was launched, the Tidy Towns competition continues to play an important role in improving the environment of our towns and villages and promoting active citizenship at all levels. The project has changed as necessary with the times and remains relevant to successive generations without altering its core value of sustainable development.

This year for instance, my Department has introduced a new category to highlight the importance of waste minimisation, one of the most challenging environmental issues facing us today. New prizes have been introduced to recognise the special situation of large towns and urban areas in our cities which have seen dramatic increases in population in recent years. These, with other minor changes, will continue to ensure that Tidy Towns applies to contemporary society as much as it did when it was first launched in 1958.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister of State for his reply and welcome the changes that have been made to the competition, particularly for the larger urban areas. In light of the lack of involvement in community and voluntary organisations, will the Minister of State consider new ways of tackling these problems in the larger towns and cities? In the countryside, in rural villages and so forth, there is no problem with active community involvement but as towns get bigger and the commuting day gets longer, there is less interest in, and support for, the community.

Photo of Batt O'KeeffeBatt O'Keeffe (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I acknowledge what Deputy O'Dowd is saying and the Department recognises the problem he outlines. As well as the waste minimisation project in the community which aims to involve more people and supplement the race against waste campaign, the Department has also introduced a new overall prize for large urban centres with populations in excess of 15,000. We are anxious to ensure as much involvement in the community within such large urban areas as possible. We see opportunities for areas such as Drogheda, Sligo, Ballymun and Blanchardstown to become involved in the competition. We are also anxious to ensure continuity, which is why we have introduced a special competition for school children. They are encouraged to carry out environmental projects in their communities to inculcate a sense of pride in their areas. They will, at the same time, benefit from the overall tidy town effort.