The country’s largest and longest running environmental competition played an important role in developing a sense of community spirit and civic pride, said Mr Gormley yesterday.
Speaking at the competition’s annual award ceremony in Dublin Castle, Mr Gormley said he hoped ties between Tidy Towns committees across the country and central and local government could be strengthened in the future.
Apart from Aughrim, the other main winners yesterday were Killarney, Co Kerry (tidiest large town); Letterkenny, Co Donegal (tidiest large urban centre) and Birdhill, Co Tipperary (tidiest village) which each received a trophy and prize of 4,000.
Killarney, which was named Ireland’s best-kept town in a separate, all-Ireland competition in July, was just pipped by a single point for the overall award, while the 2006 winner of Ireland’s Tidiest Town, Westport, finished a close third — just two points behind Aughrim.
Three new special awards were also launched this year with the Co Mayo village of Mulranny winning €1,000 for its project on the Rosmurrevagh Dunes.
The inaugural award for anti-gum litter went to an awareness programme run in Carlow town, while the award for promoting the Irish language was won by Westport, Co Mayo.
Meanwhile, the Westmeath village of Streamstown recorded the biggest improvement of any entrant over the previous year’s performance — increasing its score by almost 47%.
“It is a credit to the voluntary groups working around the country. The level of commitment and enthusiasm which they show is remarkable,” said Mr Gormley.
Mr Gormley said he was particularly delighted that Tidy Towns inspectors had reported that this year’s overall standards were significantly higher than in 2006.
At the other end of the scale, four entrants shared the dubious honour of recording the lowest overall score of just 166 out of a possible 400 points. They were the Dublin suburbs of Sallynoggin, Ronanstown, Kimmage and the Co Meath village of Longwood.