Newcastle crowned best kept town in Ireland
The seaside resort of Newcastle was today crowned Ireland's Best Kept Town after beating off tough competition from across the island.
Kerry clinched the coveted award the last two years but the popular Co Down town nestled at the foot of the Mourne Mountains won judges' hearts this time around.
Newcastle also won the Best Kept Large Town category, while Ennis in Co Clare scooped the Best Kept Large Urban Centre.
Loughgall in Co Armagh took the Best Kept Village and Glenties in Co Donegal was awarded the Best Kept Small Town.
Michael Finneran, the Reoublic's junior Environment Minister, said the competition represented the best of the Republic's TidyTowns and the North's Best Kept awards.
"The Best Kept competition has been running for 52 years now and its younger compatriot in the south, TidyTowns, is 51 years old," the minister said.
"This longevity of existence is a fantastic testimony to volunteerism on our island and shows the importance that generations of people north and south of the border have placed on the appearance of their locality."
Co Mayo seaside town Westport was awarded the TidyTowns crown in 2008.
It also clinched the prize in 2001 and 2006, but was unable to top Newcastle's charms for the all-Ireland title.
Mr Finneran was also joined at the event in Dublin Castle by Stephen Peover, Permanent Secretary at the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment.
Also present was Doreen Muskett, MBE, President of the Northern Ireland Amenity Council (NIAC) and Evelyn Moynihan, Marketing Manager of SuperValu.
Mr Peover said: "The Ireland's Best Kept Towns awards scheme is a real community initiative which sends important environmental messages to a range of audiences.
"It is unique in its ability to unite all sections of a neighbourhood, from very young schoolchildren to those involved in the business community."
The Department of the Environment and the NIAC introduced Ireland's Best Kept Towns competition in 1995 to help raise the profile of both the TidyTowns and Northern Ireland's 'Best Kept' competitions.
All entrants were graded on strict criteria, including cleanliness, the outward appearance of buildings, the presentation of roads and public facilities and the natural environment.