Pride of Place Judges Tom Dowling and Katrina Murphy listening to Pat Foley, Caren Carruthers and Stone Sculptor Ciaran Byrne from Geashill Tidy Towns explain the creation of the poetry stone carving on the footpath.

Villages vying for Pride of Place awards

Pride of Place judges visited Mucklagh, Geashill and Pullough, three communities nominated by Offaly County Council for the annual competition organised by Co-operation Ireland in partnership with IPB Insurance.

The IPB Pride of Place promotes and celebrates the best in community development, and recognises the enormous efforts of volunteers in making their local neighbourhoods better places to live, work and socialise.

Offaly County Council nominated Mucklagh Community Development CLG, Geashill Tidy Towns and Pullough Village, representing the Tullamore, Edenderry and Birr municipal districts respectively.

Mucklagh Community Development CLG represented Offaly in the 1,000 to 2,000 population category. Geashill Tidy Towns was nominated in the Creative Place category: and Pullough Village was in the Community Resilience category.

Each community hosted IPB Pride of Place judges in July. Winners and runners up in each category will be announced in an Awards ceremony in January 2023.

Mucklagh Community Centre is at the heart of Mucklagh village, a rapidly-growing community on the edge of Tullamore. Manager of the Centre, Caroline Bryant explained to the judges how the rapid population increase (60% over 20 years) in Mucklagh drove the need for a substantial Community Centre to cater for the expanding population.

In 2016, Mucklagh Community Development opened their state of the art Community Centre, which is managed by a very progressive Board of Directors.”

Stephanie Hill from the centre added: “We provide suitable facilities for all groups including active age, pre-school, Foroige, sports groups, Meals on Wheels, Residents Associations, Drama Society. The centre is very well laid out and contains a full-size basketball court, kitchen, meeting rooms and offices, all wheelchair friendly and modern.”

The centre works closely with a variety of agencies such as Offaly County Council, HSE, Offaly Sports Partnership, & Offaly Local Development Company. Board member John Cotter advised the judges about the additional developments which are planned including a playground and sensory area, e-charging points and improved car parking.

During the Judges visit to Geashill, the Tidy Towns Committee advised they have been active for 40 years developing the heritage village of Geashill to its fullest potential, making it a great place for residents and visitors.

Geashill Tidy Towns has a particular focus on biodiversity and they were National Pollinator award winners in 2017 and 2019. The group has also won the county award for the last 11 years and received the ultimate award for Ireland’s Tidiest Village in 2021. This has only been possible through everyone in the village working together.

Judges visited various points of interest in the village including the Old School House, the current National School, Glebe Walk and viewed the Pig Fair sculpture by local artist Luke Carson, and the stone carving at The Green footpath by Ciaran Byrne. The judges were also impressed by the Battle of Geashill sculpture park and by a talk on the Alderborough Nursery before finishing with entertainment by local musicians.

On the final day of judging, the Pullough Village community outlined how they are an example of how to overcome economic decline through positive community action.

Chairman of Pullough Residents Development Association, Martin Buckley, told the judges how, “after years of economic decline, the residents of Pullough fought back and set up a range of voluntary groups who have made this a lively, resilient community again.”

In the community centre 13 local groups did themselves proud by showcasing what they do in their areas, telling their stories and their plans for the future.

The centre was bustling with chat, laughter and pride. Other points of interest visited were the preschool's garden, Erin Rovers GAA field, the Community Shop and the judges also witnessed a kayaking display of splash and colour along the Grand Canal.

Offaly County Council Chief Executive, Anna Marie Delaney, praised the three entrants from Offaly, noting “the impressive work the communities undertake all year round as the reason the council had nominated Mucklagh, Geashill and Pullough.”