The National Enterprise Towns Awards: Bantry

We are profiling all the towns to enter this year’s National Enterprise Town Awards. Today we are looking at Bantry in Co Cork.

Bantry is a town in West Cork whose income traditionally has been provided by the local economy which has consisted of farming, fishing, construction, pharmaceutical and tourism.

According to many ancient Irish books such as the Book of Lacan, Keating, Leabhar Gabhala and the Annals of the Four Masters, the first to inhabit Ireland arrived in Bantry Bay forty years before the deluge. Many arrived here as early as 4000 BC and were nomadic people living off the land by hunting, fishing and collecting berries.

Bantry has a population of 2,722 (2016 census) people, with residents in the town coming from as many as 22 different countries. This has inspired a new festival called Kupala which celebrates the different nationalities and cultures in the town.

The town is an important economic centre to the region. Fishing is one of the main industries. Species such as herring, hake, whitefish are important, as well as lobster, crab and salmon. The majority of vessels operate both inside and outside inshore waters. Mussels in particular are harvested in the area. Bantry Bay hosts Ireland’s greatest concentration of the rope-mussel culture (Marine Institute, 1999), several caged salmon farms, and other aquaculture operations.

Bantry was one of the hardest hit towns by the last economic downturn, and at one point had one of the highest unemployment rates in Ireland. However, the town has since recovered and is almost at full employment with lots of new start-up businesses established in recent years.

The town is a service centre for a large catchment area, including both the Beara and Sheep’s Head peninsulas. Bantry hosts two cultural events each summer – the West Cork Chamber Music Festival and the West Cork Literary Festival. These feature musicians and writers of international stature, with performances at various venues in the town.

In the last 24 months, the town has put a big focus on collaboration among different local bodies and institutions which has led to the Bantry Project Group, bringing tourism, Bantry Business and Tidy Towns together to improve the local area and economy.   

The Bantry Tidy Towns committee has also worked really hard to improve the look of the town by painting buildings and creating murals which has given added character to the town.

By Stephen Larkin

Published on 12 August, 2019