Waterford city has claimed the title of Best Place to Live in Ireland 2021.
The city, which was the unanimous choice of the judging panel beat off stiff competition from the four other shortlisted locations: Clonakilty, Co Cork; Galway city; Glaslough, Co Monaghan; and Killarney Co Kerry.
Among the things which impressed the judges about Waterford were its beautiful buildings, its liveability, its pedestrian friendly public space, its weather, and its easy access to the Comeragh Mountains and the Copper Coast.
The Irish Times Best Place to Live in Ireland contest, which is supported by Randox Health, began in June. Over the summer 2,400 people nominated 470 places across all 32 counties for the title.
While the number of nominations was a factor in the selection of the top locations — Waterford received 47 — the quality of the place itself was the chief consideration.
Each one of the nominated places — whether a city, town, village or suburb — was assessed on a range of criteria including: affordability; natural amenities; buildings; housing; community initiatives and spirit; presence of clubs, societies and activities; good local services; diversity; a welcome for outsiders; transport links; employment opportunities; digital links for distance working; and safety and security.
The panel of judges included Zainab Boladale, presenter of RTÉ’s Nationwide; Rosita Boland, Irish Times journalist; Dr Illona Duffy, GP and public-health commentator; Simon Wall, Mayo county architect and Irish Times journalist Conor Goodman, who chaired the group.
What the judges said:
Architect Simon Wall described the city’s Viking Triangle as a wonderful friendly public realm with walkable, liveable and happy communities.
“Waterford is an unassuming city, with a sense of its own independence. It appears not to compare itself with other Irish cities. What it has achieved over the past two decades is simply outstanding.”
Rosita Boland said the city centre’s wonderful period buildings were complemented by thoughtfully designed new museums that have brought a new civic energy.
Zainab Boladale said the city has been quietly doing its own thing over the past few years, and she highlighted its vibrant youthful scene.
Dr Duffy said the city’s response to the pandemic was another plus — for most of 2020 Waterford had the lowest infection rate on a county-by-county basis.
“Waterford mounted a great battle against Covid, protecting and developing services in the regional hospital, not to mention its community power. It achieved both low Covid rates and a high vaccine uptake.”
In the midst of a housing crisis, affordable accommodation was a key consideration. Waterford has an average house price of around €200,000 and a stock of competitively priced homes for sale. Housing here is accessible — or relatively accessible — to people on a variety of incomes.
The chair of the judging panel, Conor Goodman, said that while Waterford has to confront some of the problems that afflict any city — crime and traffic congestion for example — these are not as pronounced here as in other Irish urban centres.
“Its high unemployment is a negative, but this is somewhat offset by other factors — notably its growing tech and pharma sectors, its remote working facilities, and its access to other jobs markets such as Dublin and Cork — and was ultimately outweighed by the city’s numerous positive attributes.”
This is the second Irish Times Best Place to Live in Ireland contest. The first was in 2012, when Westport, Co Mayo, won the title.
For information about ‘Best Places to Live 2021’ go to www.irishtimes.com/bestplace.