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Westport revels in Best Place award party

Best place to live
Liam Kavanagh, MD of The Irish Times, made a special presentation to The Cathaoirleach of Westport Town Council, Cllr Ollie Gannon to mark the town’s victory in the ‘Best Place to Live’ competition.?Pic: Michael Mc Laughlin

Westport revels at ‘Best Place’ award party

Áine Ryan

IF MINISTER Michael Ring gets his way, Westport will remain the Irish Times Best Place to Live in Ireland in perpetuity. The Minister for State at the Department of Tourism and Sport encapsulated a sentiment undoubtedly felt by the majority of residents when he observed in last Saturday’s edition of The Irish Times that: “I am most content when I am driving home to Westport and see Croagh Patrick in the distance. That’s when I feel happiest. My favourite activity there is to walk the town on a summer’s evening, to take in the river, the Mall and to meet the many people I know – and the people I don’t know visiting from abroad.”
And in true Covey style, when speaking from the steps of historic Westport House at the party held on Sunday to celebrate The Irish Times accolade of Best Place to Live in Ireland he laid down the gauntlet.
“You can never have this competition again. Westport will always be the best place … I live in it, I love it and I intend to be buried in it,” Minister Ring said, before predicting that the Sam Maguire Cup would be brought back to Mayo soon.
It was the second time this summer that Westport House and its splendid grounds resonated with a festive fever as thousands of locals and visitors enjoyed the Sunday afternoon party celebrating The Irish Times award. The inaugural Westport Festival of Music and Performing Arts attracted over 10,000 revellers earlier in the summer.
Appropriately, last weekend’s programme opened with an ecumenical service co-hosted by Fr Charlie McDonnell and Rev Val Rogers in Holy Trinity Church.
Then it was time to follow Banna Piob Chuan Modh (the Clew Bay Pipe Band) from the Octagon and in through the Church Lane gates towards a colourful bazaar of stalls of local produce and crafts, as well as a busy selection of activities both in the house and the grounds.
From drumming to boxing, zorbing to zip-wiring, jazz to rock music, beekeepers to bakers, storytellers to cheesemakers, the family-friendly party both indulged and challenged the thousands of participants.
Officiating at the event, The Irish Times Editor Kevin O’Sullivan paid a glowing tribute to the communal commitment of the local authority and business representatives, as well as to the many voluntary organisations. Mr O’Sullivan said this was ‘a landmark achievement’ for Westport. He also presented John O’Callaghan –  who contributed the citation about the town to the competition – with a framed front page of The Irish Times edition of June 25, 2012, which recorded Westport’s win. The competition attracted 532 entries from all 32 counties.
Speaking also, Cathaoirleach of Westport Town Council Ollie Gannon said the vision of residents back in the late 1950s and 1960s had helped to lay the foundations for the town’s contemporary successes. He observed that the town exuded a great ‘sense of pride of place’.

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