SOME of the best ideas are born over a cup of tea.
That’s how Team Limerick Clean-up (TLC) began. Three friends chatting, sharing ideas and dreams for the place they call home.
One of those friends was proud Limerickman JP McManus, who, along with a dedicated team, set about on the unique TLC endeavour.
At last count they had mobilised some 10,054 men, women and children from what seemed like every nook and cranny in the county and city to perform a straight-forward task – pick up the litter in their areas.
There were giddy schoolchildren, inwardly satisfied with their new sense of responsibility, sports stars only too happy to put their profile to good use, local resident groups eager to make a change.
In total, volunteers gave up to 20,108 hours of their time cleaning up Limerick on Good Friday, April 3. Not to mention the army of volunteers who served tea, coffee and hot cross buns at 66 locations across the county.
“This is the result of the work of many thousands of people – we are just fortunate to be here to receive the award,” said JP McManus at the Clarion Hotel this Tuesday as he and other members of the organising committee accepted the Limerick Person of the Month award which recognises the success of what was one of the biggest community efforts of its kind ever seen in Ireland. “I thought it was a great community day,” Mr McManus went on. “I was very proud to be from Limerick.”
Initially, when the idea was first mooted, Mr McManus thought a couple of thousand people might roll up their sleeves and get involved, “but then the momentum grew”.
“It was very satisfying in the end,” he acknowledged, “people from all walks of life decided to join in and put their weight behind it – it just goes to show what can be done when people want to do something.”
While dirty old Fanta cans were being picked up on the banks of the River Loobagh in Kilmallock friendships were forged, on the narrow roads over in Doon no one was afraid to get their hands dirty, and in several communities throughout the city and county, new clean-up committees had commenced.
A total of 100 tonnes of litter was collected which equates to over 4,000 household wheelie-bins of waste. Mr Binman crews covered 2,300km on the day.
“Hopefully, the memory of it will live with the children,” continued Mr McManus.
“Along with the clean-up, it created a great community spirit. People met people whom they never met before and hopefully the associations will last.”
The second friend sipping on a cup of tea when the TLC idea was first floated, was Munster rugby legend and Ireland rugby captain, Paul O’Connell.
As a professional sportsman, Paul knows a thing or two about doing the simple things right and, as such, the TLC endeavour was right up his street.
“It was incredible,” he said at the award presentation of the success of what was an almost military-style operation.
In a dedicated control room council officials monitored progress in each of the municipal districts while a fleet tracking system monitored the journeys taken by the Mr Binman trucks.
“For me, when we launched it, I said it was about developing habits for people,” continued Paul.
“When you are from Limerick, you clean up after yourself and you put litter in the bin – it’s a very simple idea. I remember it being hammered into me when I was young but I don’t know if we do it much any more.
“It brought communities together and it became a bit of a recruitment opportunity for the Going for Gold and the Tidy Towns groups as well - it was a big success. It’s nice that Limerick is unique and quite original in the idea.”
While Paul admits that he didn’t break quite as much of a sweat as he has done previously in Thomond Park and the Aviva, his young son Paddy, 5, knuckled down to business and was proud to carry out his civic duty on Good Friday.
“I was around doing photo opps so I probably didn’t pick as much rubbish as I should have,” smiled the talisman, “but my brother Justin brought Paddy around in Annacotty with his cousins.”
And finally, to the third friend chatting over that all important cuppa which got the TLC ball rolling – Helen O’Donnell.
“We are really excited and honoured that TLC has received this person of the month award. This award is really being accepted on behalf of the 10,000 people who were out on the day,” said Helen who is part of the TLC committee.
“I think it’s a reminder to everyone who participated in TLC that there are lots of hi-viz vests out there and lots of pickers, so don’t let them go to waste – use them, keep it going, and hopefully it will happen again,” she smiled.
The Limerick Person of the Month award is sponsored by the Limerick Leader, which was also a TLC sponsor, media agency Southern and the Clarion Hotel.