Begin Together Awards 2020

The search for Ireland’s most enterprising town in 2020 is about to begin.

The Begin Together Awards 2020 is an all-island endeavour focused on improving the financial, physical and mental wellbeing of Ireland’s communities and enabling them to thrive.

In February, Bank of Ireland launched a three-year €3m all-island Begin Together initiative.  The initiative consists of three key annual strands: the €500,000 Begin Together Fund, the €200,000 Begin Together Awards and the €300,000 Begin Together Colleagues component.

The 2020 Begin Together Awards will support towns across the island of Ireland as they reboot and recover from the impact of Covid-19.

With a total prize fund of over €200,000, this year’s Awards were fast-tracked to provide funding to the winning towns and urban villages by the beginning of October and directly assist their Covid-19 recovery. There will be 21 awards up for grabs, with the overall winner receiving €50,000 and the title of Ireland’s ‘Most Enterprising Town’. This award was won by Kilkenny in 2019. Now in its second year, there is also a prize of €20,000 for the winner of the ‘Rising Star’ award, which was won by Castlebar last year.

Here are the latest reports and interviews as they happen as we count down to the 2020 Begin Together Awards:

Begin Together Fund approves €500,000 in funding for 116 projects

Young woman, woman dressed in clown outfit and man in dark suit.

Pictured are Ellie Iveagh (aged 16) from Citywise Education, a Bank of Ireland Begin Together Fund grantee, and Angelica Santander from Clowns Without Borders Ireland, also a grantee, along with Henry Dummer, CMO, Bank of Ireland. Picture: Conor McCabe Photography

Financial literacy, social inclusion, mental health, social isolation, disability, addiction services and cancer support are among the projects being supported by the Begin Together Fund. Some 116 projects in these areas across the whole island of Ireland will receive €500,000 in funding under the Begin Together Fund.

Limerick Lean on Me initiative gets Begin Together backing

Group of people standing beside a statue in Limerick.

A grassroots local initiative to support local retailers impacted by the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown has become one of the first community initiatives to win support under the Begin Together Fund for Colleagues, launched by Bank of Ireland. Lean on Me is an initiative that was sparked by the realisation among a loyal cohort of professionals that local businesses faced an untimely demise and were being overtaken by savvier online players, is beginning to become a national movement.

Bank of Ireland launches 2020 Begin Together Awards

Woman in black sweater alongside young girl with red hair.

Bank of Ireland CEO Francesca McDonagh and Florence Marlow-Ward from Walkinstown pictured in February this year launching Bank of Ireland’s ‘Begin Together’ initiative which includes the Begin Together Awards in support of local enterprise across the island of Ireland. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

The 2020 Begin Together Awards will focus on the resilience and recovery of towns impacted by COVID-19 pandemic.

Bank of Ireland unveils €3m Begin Together initiative

Woman dressed in dark clothes speaking on a stage.

Bank of Ireland has launched a €3m all-island Begin Together initiative to improve the financial, physical and mental wellbeing of communities and local economies.

Carndonagh embodies the spirit of Begin Together

The revamped Carndonagh Tourist Office.

The revamped Carndonagh Tourist Office which was made possible after the town emerged as a regional winner in the National Enterprise Town Awards.

National Enterprise Towns regional winner, the enterprising town of Carndonagh, is already ahead of its own 5-year strategy to supercharge its local economy.

Building economically sustainable communities across Ireland

Woman in shop talking to judges.

Members of the National Enterprise Town Awards visit a shop in Stoneybatter, Dublin

ThinkBusiness sat down with Michelle Goodwin, senior strategy manager at Bank of Ireland to discuss the Begin Together Awards.

Bank of Ireland reveals €1.4bn funding to reboot economy

Bank of Ireland sign outside House of Lords, Dublin.

New funding will support homebuilding, ‘green’ investment and local enterprise and community groups.

Thriving community of Kilkenny celebrates NETA ’19 win

Group of three women and two men holding awards.

From left: Maurice O’Connor, Kilkenny County Council; Mary O’Hanlon, Age Friendly, Deirdre Shine; Mag Whelan, PPN; and Simon O’Dwyer, Three Sixty. Image: John Kennedy

The Bank of Ireland branch in Kilkenny was buzzing as the medieval city celebrated its overall National Enterprise Town Awards (NETA) win for 2019.

‘It’s about enabling communities to thrive’

Woman with brown hair and a blue dress.

Áine McCleary, head of Distribution Channels, Bank of Ireland

Bank of Ireland’s Áine McCleary talks to ThinkBusiness about judging NETA 2019 and how she has been moved by the spirit of community she has experienced.

The 2019 National Enterprise Town Awards [GALLERY]

Pictured representing Castlebar at the 2019 Bank of Ireland National Enterprise Town Awards are Anne Conlon, Bernard Hughes, Beverley Flynn, John Mulroy John Caulfield, Maria Staunton, John Magee, Nicola Kennedy, Annette Canty, and Mary Doherty.

Take a look at all the winners from the 2019 National Enterprise Town Awards.

Kilkenny overall winner at National Enterprise Town Awards 2019

Group of several people winning an award.

From left: Marian Acremon, President, Kilkenny Chamber of Commerce); Mayor Martin Brett; Caithearleach Peter ‘Chap’ Cleere; Fiona Deegan, head of Enterprise Kilkenny CoCo; Francesca McDonagh, CEO, Bank of Ireland; Colette Byrne, CEO, Kilkenny CoCo; and Deirdre Shine, bank manager, Kilkenny & County, Bank of Ireland.

Kilkenny emerged victorious from around 70 towns and was last night named the overall winner of the Bank of Ireland National Enterprise Town Awards 2019.

National Enterprise Town Award winners


ThinkBusiness attends the National Enterprise Town Awards and talks to Marian Acremon and Deidre Shine from the overall winning town Kilkenny as well as Ann Conlon, John Mulroy and Bernard Hughes from Rising Star award committee for Castlebar. In recent weeks Bank of Ireland launched a three-year €3m all-island Begin Together initiative to improve the financial, physical and mental wellbeing of Ireland’s communities, while supporting the underlying local economies. The initiative consists of three key annual strands: the €500,000 Begin Together Fund, the €200,000 Begin Together Awards and the €300,000 Begin Together Colleagues component.

Compiled by John Kennedy and Stephen Larkin

Updated: 12 August 2020