A FLEET of sailboats, dinghies, fishing boats and even a luxury yacht or two were in Bantry last weekend to celebrate the official opening of the town's new pier and marina.
A weekend of nautical celebrations at the Bantry Regatta and BBQ Festival kicked off on Friday with the official opening of the new marina by Bantry's own all-Ireland winning Cork captain Graham Canty in the company of Bantry Bay Port Company chairman John Mullins.
âWe are delighted that the new Bantry Harbour Marina is now open for local and visiting boats to enjoy,' Mr Mullins said. âThis new sheltered harbour facility will be of great benefit to both commercial and leisure users, bringing increased activity to Bantry harbour and town,' he added.
Â He acknowledged the âco-operation and patience' of all local harbour users throughout the construction period.
Brendan Keating, chief executive of the BantryÂ Bay Port Company and Port of CorkÂ said: âI'd like to pay particular thanks to BAM Construction and Malachy Walsh Consulting Engineers, and our own port teams in Bantry and in Cork.'Â
The Inner Harbour Development will provide improved access and facilities on the town pier and will promote and increase commercial activity in the harbour and town.
Â The new marina provides 40 short-stay berths for the marine leisure sector close to the town centre.
Â âThis is a fantastic bonus for Bantry,' said Adrian Cronin, chair of the Bantry Business Association (BAA).Â
âBantry has suffered a bit in the last few years, but I think things have turned a corner and we are all looking forward to the future and to Phase II of the redevelopment of the inner harbour and the associated businesses that are planned for this area,' he told The Southern Star.
The â¬8.5m development, and first phase of the project which will eventually reshape the entire harbour area, has seen the construction of 60mÂ of floating breakwater pontoon, with remedial works to the town's pier, and dredging, to a depth of 4m, to allow vessels access the inner harbour.
âAfter a long wait we are delighted to see this facility opened, not only for the local people, but for the visitors and tourists who have come to West Cork and to Bantry,' said Eileen O'Shea, a director of the Bantry Bay Port Company and chair of the Bantry Development and Tourism group.Â
âThe marine leisure industry is growing in this area and we see this as a fantastic facility to help us promote Bantry Bay and all we have to offer here.'
The first phase of the final â¬24m project was jointly funded by the government, the former Bantry Harbour Commissioners, and the Port of Cork.
âThis is a very special day, not only for the town of Bantry, but for West Cork as well,' said Mayor of Co Cork Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind).Â
âThe new floating pontoon, the redevelopment of the town's harbour and the dredging of the harbour entrance will have tremendous benefits for the continued economic and tourist industry growth in the area. The future is bright and prosperous for Bantry and West Cork,' he said.
Welcoming the new marina and echoing Cllr Hurley's remarks, Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) said that he hopes the redevelopment of Bantry harbour will continue.
âBantry is a town that is long overdue a bit of growth,' Cllr Carroll said. âWhen I was a young fellow, Bantry looked like the town that was most likely to grow and develop quickly to service Beara and beyond. All this was lost along the way somewhere, and now I hope that we are back on track again. I am very much impressed here today and this is the type of work we need to see continuing throughout West Cork.'
As a former chair of Bantry Harbour Commissioners, Cllr Mary Hegarty (FG) said that she was confident that the opening of the new marina and the works to the pier were just the start of it.
âThis is a great day, this new marina has started the development of the inner harbour, and there will be more to come, with the planned developments around the harbour,' Cllr Hegarty said.
All three of West Cork's TDs were also on hand to celebrate the first phase of the new development.
âThis a very significant and a welcome development for the western end of the constituency,' Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly TD (FG) said. âThere are a number of other developments underway in the Bantry area and this is adding to the infrastructure that will last for decades and generations into the future.'
âThis is a long overdue, super boast for the Bantry area,' Deputy Michael Collins (Ind) said. âYou can see Bantry is beginning to show signs of fighting back. Indeed, someone said to me recently that they never thought they would see three cranes working in the town all at once again. This will be a huge benefit to every aspect of life in Bantry,' Deputy Margaret Murphy-O'Mahony (FF) said. âThis is a blossoming of the town and I was always aware of what Bantry has to offer and this is now out there for all to see. I have to praise the local people who have worked hard for many, many years to make this day and this development a reality.'
As the party kicked off, the town prepared to host the inaugural Bantry Regatta & BBQ Festival.
There was everything from Longboat racing and a cÃ©ilÃ toÂ step dancing, a BBQ at the new marina, a sailing race around Whiddy Island, and a pirate-themed fancy dress party.
However, there was also a chance for those who had yet to try their hand at sailing to give it a go with the Bantry Sailing Club offering introductory lessons at their slipway.Â
There was also an excellent opportunity to explore the Bantry Blueway with Jim Kennedy and his team at Atlantic Sea Kayaking, or people could hire their very own boat from Bantry Boat hire to explore the harbour.Â Â
There was also plenty of music to suit all tastes around the town â whether it was the disco at the Square or trad in William Street, rock ân' roll on Main Street.
One of the many visitors to Bantry for the weekend, Ed Bradley, who had just arrived with his family from London, to enjoy a week exploring the Sheep's Head and the Beara peninsulas, said it was a fine start to his holiday.
âThis is our first time here in West Cork,' Ed said. âThe kids have just been kayaking and we are about to head into the town for some music and food. This is a great introduction and we will definitely be back again.'