This week, across two sections, we bring you six pages jam-packed with pictures of Limerick people cleaning up all around them. In our judgment, they are guaranteed to lift the spirit and make us all feel good about the place we call home. That, of course, was one of the missions of the successful Team Limerick Clean-up, but in the space of just a few hours on Good Friday it achieved so much more.
Thoughtfully conceived and superbly executed, the TLC initiative had the distinct advantage of being very well resourced, courtesy of the JP McManus Charitable Foundation. There was no expense spared in making sure it worked, right across the city and county. The only thing the organisers couldn’t control was the weather, but thankfully it held.
Volunteers were equipped with packs that had everything from litter pickers to gloves and copious bags. A key part of the whole thing was the high-vis jacket worn by the 10,000 strong army of volunteers, which immediately identified them as being part of a common cause.
A well run social media campaign, enthusiastically backed up by this newspaper, got the message out emphatically and informed the rest of the nation that by lunchtime Limerick had surely achieved one of the goals of TLC – making it the cleanest county in Ireland. The good-news story was carried on all the main television bulletins that night – yet more positive reinforcement that Limerick’s image has changed for the better.
Of course, human nature being what it is, a little of the good work done by the volunteers had been undone by careless litter louts within 24 hours. For those of us who busily filled bags with discarded cans and crisp packets, fast food wrappers and other bits of debris, it was almost an affront to see some of the same kind of litter in public places the following day. Perhaps the reason we took offence is that we had taken great pride in seeing our communities looking spotless – so much so that even the sight of a paper bag on a footpath, seen from a passing car, made us want to stop and pick it up.
That, though, was a minor irritant – not least because one of the best things about TLC was the participation of so many young people who took great delight in using the pickers to fill their own bags. Surely it’s not being overly optimistic to hope that these youngsters will learn to respect their communities by refusing to litter in the years ahead. There is every reason to hope that TLC will be an annual event – by popular demand – and that great Limerick ambassador Paul O’Connell led by example again when he said he hoped his young son Paddy will be taking part for many years to come, alongside thousands of other Limerick kids.
One of the volunteers last week told our reporter Donal O’Regan that the atmosphere around TLC was so good, “I wish I could bottle it”. How nice it was too that, among the clean-up utensils in those packs, volunteers found the distinctive lapel pin that sends a signal to the rest of the country – and indeed the world. We are proud of where we come from and where we live, it says. Good Friday was a good day to be in Limerick, and from Limerick.