An awards ceremony which showcases the high level of best practice in Irish local government, LGIU Ireland was pleased to participate in the judging and coverage of Chambers Ireland 2023 Excellence in Local Government Awards.
In its 20th year, the Awards feature a total of 94 Local Authority projects shortlisted over 15 categories and in conjunction with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot commented;
“The Awards showcase the inventiveness and innovation that Local Authorities are delivering, which so often goes unnoticed.”
While the awards have transformed with new categories over the last two decades, increased innovation and heightened competition, the commitment and dedication of every Local Authority to serve their communities and champion their localities remains a constant.
In this LGIU Ireland article, we bring you the winners of the 15 different categories and the winning Local Authority of 2022 to give a taste of the high level of best practice in public service delivery, a hallmark of the local government system in Ireland.
Over the coming months, LGIU Ireland will share the individual stories of the award-winning projects with in-depth case studies. In the meantime, read below for a quick look at the 15 winning projects and the highly-coveted local authority of the year.
Supporting Sustainable Communities Award: Limerick City & County Council – Student Planners: Inspiring Future Generations
The Forward Planning Department has formulated, trialled, and implemented a school consultation programme to ensure that children and young people are an integral part of the plan-making process and central to shaping the future of Limerick.
Developed in two strands for both primary and secondary schools, the programme has been formulated in regard to the respective school curriculum in both strands and includes the use of an interactive mapping tool, which allows students to get out on the ground themselves and, with the map, follow their location, marking what issues/ concerns and ideas they have for their local area. In addition, schoolchildren are encouraged to make formal submissions to the plan-making process. Since 2019, over 1,350 students have engaged with the Forward Planning Department and have influenced and shaped the future development of their local area.
Diversity & Inclusion Award: Donegal County Council – Ambition
The AMBITION business accelerator programme equips Donegal women entrepreneurs with the tools and resources to create successful businesses and attain economic empowerment.
The 14-week programme includes one-to-one mentorship, peer support, 12 comprehensive workshops, and dozens of guest speakers. Workshops cover core topics such as problem framing, customer discovery, value proposition development, market sizing, and business growth. Additionally, masterclasses are offered on digital marketing, product design, performance KPIs, presentation skills, risk analysis and team building.
AMBITION is built on five key pillars: a structured and integrated approach to skills development and mentorship, individualised support, a focus on cutting-edge techniques and best practices, the correct elements at the right time, and curated networks. Throughout the programme, participants explore personal attitudes to ambition, business culture and values, entrepreneurship, leadership, networking and network development, and resilience.
Festival of the Year Award- Kildare County Council- Brigid 1500 St. Brigid’s Festival 2023
Brigid 1500 is a two-year programme designed to celebrate and commemorate St. Brigid—an individual, a life, and a legacy. The objective of Brigid 1500 is to establish a significant cultural and societal heritage that resonates with a diverse contemporary audience. The programme involves communities in the narrative and heritage of St. Brigid, establishing a tangible link with the past through various events and initiatives. It delves into the values championed by St. Brigid, encompassing faith and spirituality, biodiversity and sustainability, arts and culture, social justice, peace, hospitality, and education.
A 10-day festival marked the inaugural St. Brigid’s Bank Holiday from January 28th to February 7th, 2023. This initiative was executed in collaboration with a dedicated Brigid 1500 Steering Committee. The festivities comprised a school programme, four significant flagship events, and numerous community activities facilitated through a grant scheme and in partnership with collaborating agencies.
Supporting Tourism Award: Waterford City and County Council – Reinvigorating one of the great gardens of the world – Mount Congreve
Mount Congreve House served as the residence for six generations of the Congreves, a prominent merchant family. Constructed in the 1760s by the renowned architect John Roberts, the house underwent remodelling in the 1960s. As part of the redevelopment efforts, the gardens have undergone a revitalization guided by the vision of Garden Curator Michael White. The outcome is an iconic visitor experience featuring enhancements to garden infrastructure, the introduction of new plant collections, and the incorporation of imaginative play elements that narrate the story of Mount Congreve. New pathways, orientation features, and a woodland playground for young visitors have also been added.
Moreover, in the 18th Century mansion house, a purpose-built visitor centre was established in the existing courtyard and former stables within the eastern wing of the house.
Promoting Economic Development Award: Kerry County Council – Kerry Food Hub
The Kerry Food Hub, situated strategically in Firies, Co Kerry, is a not-for-profit community project. Social entrepreneurs strategically manage the hub’s operations. Its purpose-built food production facilities offer start-up entrepreneurs and small, growth-oriented food businesses the chance to expand and progress more easily with access to a dedicated, high-quality food production unit. Since its establishment in 2016, the artisan occupants of the hub have cultivated robust relationships with professionals in the food service industry, particularly in the tourism hub of Killarney. The hub also proves to be an excellent location for serving retail outlets spanning from Killarney to Tralee.
In 2022, The Kerry Food Hub added ten new 1,000 sq ft food-grade production units. Additionally, it launched artisanmarket.ie, a multi-vendor online marketplace connecting artisan food producers with professional buyers.
Local Authority Innovation Award: Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council – Beaufort – a unique heat pump district heating system
As part of the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s initiatives within the 2022 Energy Efficiency Retrofitting Programme (EERP), a distinctive heat pump space heating solution was implemented in designated older person’s developments. The Beaufort complex in Glasthule, County Dublin, originally constructed in 1984, encompasses 58 residential apartments across three blocks. Additionally, one of the blocks houses a daycare centre offering an HSE-funded service for older residents in the county. The Council executed a comprehensive retrofit of the development, involving the installation of external insulation, new windows and doors, LED lighting, and solar panels.
The pioneering implementation of the district heating system, sanctioned under the EERP, marks the first of its kind in the country. This system delivers greater energy savings than standalone heat pumps, contributing to higher BER ratings for the apartments and substantial financial savings.
Sustainable Environment & Biodiversity Award: Dublin City Council – Project Air View
Dublin City Council, in partnership with Google, launched the Project Air View initiative, which measured local street-level air quality for the first time in Ireland. Over 16 months, an electric Street View Car equipped with advanced sensors meticulously captured over 50 million air quality measurements across the streets of Dublin city, providing valuable insights into a range of pollutants known to affect community health adversely. The air pollution measurements were used to develop maps of street-level air pollution.
These big data and citywide air quality maps are made openly available at Google Environments Explorer and Dublin’s Open Data Platform, Dublinked to support policy development, future research, advocacy & awareness around air quality for a sustainable environment.
Communications Award: Fingal County Council – 3D/Virtual Reality Models of Public Realm Projects
In collaboration with Google, Dublin City Council introduced the Project Air View initiative, marking Ireland’s first-ever measurement of local street-level air quality. Over a period of 16 months, an electric Street View Car, equipped with advanced sensors meticulously gathered over 50 million air quality measurements throughout the streets of Dublin city. This comprehensive dataset provides valuable insights into various pollutants known to have adverse effects on community health. The collected air pollution data was utilized to generate maps depicting street-level air quality.
This extensive dataset and the resulting citywide air quality maps are openly accessible on Google Environments Explorer and Dublin’s Open Data Platform, Dublinked. The availability of this information aims to support policy development, future research, and efforts in advocacy and awareness regarding air quality for a sustainable environment.
Climate Change Award: South Dublin County Council – Tallaght District-Heating Network
Space heating constitutes nearly 40% of the annually generated carbon in Ireland. District heating provides a technology-neutral platform that can integrate waste heat, renewable energy sources, and co-generation with smart, flexible energy systems, forming a low-carbon, cost-effective solution for urban neighbourhoods. As a significant stride toward a low-carbon economy, SDCC (South Dublin County Council) committed to overcoming financial, regulatory, and organizational hurdles to establish a functional district heating network.
SDCC successfully negotiated the supply of 10 MW of waste-recyclable heat from a large data centre developed by Amazon Data Services Ireland in Tallaght town centre. (The provision of heat comes at no cost as part of Amazon’s zero-carbon commitment.) Implementing the district heating scheme necessitated the establishment of a publicly owned heat utility company, the creation of a customer base, securing sufficient developmental grant aid, engaging an experienced energy supply company through procurement, and introducing a suite of innovative contracts not previously available in Ireland. The energy centre and pipe network construction concluded in Q1 2023, and the system is now fully operational.
Sustaining the Arts Award: Carlow County Council – Borris Lace By Post and Exchange
Inspired by the traditional craft of Borris Lace, The Borris Lace by Post Project and Exchange is a long-term initiative. The project’s objective was to engage communities in a Covid-safe manner creatively. Participants were involved in a hands-on process of crafting and stitching led by two accomplished artists, Ally Nolan, a designer and craft maker, and Jules Michael, a community artist, both hailing from County Carlow. The artists designed an initial six-month project where participants received a comprehensive pack by post containing all the necessary materials for lace making, sewing techniques, drawing, and more.
The project’s impact extended to various groups, fostering a connection between the indigenous craft and contemporary art. It reached participants in Nursing Homes, Active Retirement Groups, Local Schools, and Men’s Sheds. Notably, this sustained initiative has also facilitated a European Exchange with partners in Italy.
Health & Wellbeing Award: Limerick City & County Council – Limerick on Foot
The #LimerickOnFoot initiative kicked off on January 20, 2023, to inspire individuals to venture outdoors and discover the various tracks and trails across Limerick City and County. With financial support from the Department of Rural and Community Development, Failte Ireland, and Limerick City and County Council through the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme, the campaign highlighted specific trails in County Limerick. The campaign’s primary focus revolved around three key routes: the Kilmoylan Woods Nature Walk, Liskennett Forest Trail, and the Galtymore.
Municipal District Initiative Award: Kildare County Council – Newbridge Womens shed
The establishment of the Newbridge Women’s Shed is intended for women of diverse ages and backgrounds to reconnect with both themselves and the broader community. Primarily, the shed serves as a secure environment where women are empowered through peer education and the forging of friendships. The overarching goal is to enhance mental health and well-being by fostering social inclusion and creating an environment conducive to the flourishing of diversity.
Urban Revival Award: Cork City Council – Springville House ‘Rightsizing’
As part of its housing initiatives outlined in ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ from 2017 to 2019, Cork City Council identified an opportunity to redevelop Springville House in Blackrock. This initiative aimed to contribute to the city’s sustainable reset and simultaneously address the pressing need for ‘right-sizing’ and over 60 accommodations in this location. The innovative aspect of this opportunity lay in the vision to transform an outdated third-generation building into a modern 35-unit apartment block suitable for the ‘right-sizing’ demographic, all designed in accordance with best practices and standards.
Serving as an exemplar of urban revitalization, this development fosters sustainable communities and urban fabric, countering dereliction. Completed in 2022, and given its proximity to the city centre, retail, recreational, and healthcare facilities, along with walkways, this residential development stands as a shining example of what collaborative efforts and conversion can achieve.
Heritage and Built Environment Award: Waterford City and County Council -Waterford’s newest museums – Time and Silver
Waterford City and County Council unveiled the Museum of Time and the Irish Silver Museum in June 2021 as part of the Viking Triangle project in Waterford. These additions aimed to enhance the offerings in the area, enticing visitors to explore more of Waterford’s attractions.
The success of this initiative became apparent in 2022, as the opening of the two new museums led to a noteworthy milestone – 100,000 fee-paying visitors. This achievement was particularly significant given the challenges posed by Covid-19 to the tourism sector, surpassing pre-Covid-19 figures from 2019. Of the visitors, over 50% were from overseas, with the majority hailing from the US and the UK.
Age Friendly Initiative Award: Wicklow County Council – Intergenerational Digital Learning Supporting Seniors using their personal Digital Devices
In this initiative, transition year students took the lead in bridging the digital gap between generations. These students underwent training to become tutors, acquiring the skills to teach older individuals how to access information and use their digital devices. Each adult learner was partnered with a dedicated tutor from transition year, ensuring a personalised approach to assist them with their specific digital device, be it a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. The sessions were tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual, creating a supportive and engaging learning environment. Through the guidance provided by the tutors, older adults received instruction and gained confidence in navigating the digital landscape.
This initiative not only imparted a valuable skill but also cultivated intergenerational bonds, fostering mutual understanding and respect. As transition year students assumed the role of digital literacy tutors, they not only empowered others but also experienced significant personal growth in terms of self-esteem and maturity.
Local Authority of the Year – Limerick City & County Council
Taking the crowning achievement at this year’s awards, Ian Talbot, Chief Executive of Chambers Ireland, commented on Limerick City & County Council’s success for their
“extensive work in promoting Limerick as a positive, inclusive and sustainable place to live, work, visit and invest.”
Limerick City & County Council Chief Executive, Dr Pat Daly, commented on taking home the most competitive award of the night,
“We have a community-centric strategy and a dedication to nurturing entrepreneurial spirit, pursuing vibrant living spaces, and elevating Limerick’s national and international profile. We have a community-centric strategy and a dedication to nurturing entrepreneurial spirit, pursuing vibrant living spaces, and elevating Limerick’s national and international profile.”
A testament of excellence to those best-performing Authorities, and so many of them get short-listed for an award, indicates a system of local public service dedicated to local improvement.
LGIU Ireland wishes to congratulate all the winners and short-listed projects for displaying the best of local authorities’ innovative and collaborative energies.