Small towns – a looming crisis

County councils and politicians must prioritise the revitalisation of small towns

Letter of the Day

Sir, – I write to you about a trend that is becoming all too common across our small towns in Ireland – the haunting development of empty towns. As a resident and business owner in Kenmare, Co Kerry, I am witnessing first-hand the alarming rate at which our vibrant community is deteriorating and may further do so due to economic pressures and neglect.

Small towns like Kenmare have long been the lifeblood of Ireland, each one possessing its own unique charm and character.

However, in recent years, many of these towns are facing an existential threat as businesses shutter their doors, streets become deserted, and once-thriving communities dwindle.

The recent staggering increases in our commercial rates in Kenmare will exacerbate this downward spiral.


Businesses, already struggling to stay afloat amid the rise of online commerce and changing consumer habits, are now being burdened with unsustainable financial obligations. The result will be a cascade of closures, job losses, and a palpable sense of despair. The recent rate hikes, ranging from an unbelievable 13 per cent to an astonishing 600 per cent, averaging between 75 per cent to 100 per cent, are simply untenable. One business’s rates have gone from €15,000 to €63,000 – another from €4,000 to €17,000 – and most businesses in Kenmare have experienced a doubling of their rates.

The assumption that the resilience of Kenmare’s retail and hospitality sector will weather these unprecedented hikes is dangerously misguided.

The consequences of this trend extend far beyond the economic realm. Kenmare is not just a collection of buildings and businesses; these are homes to generations of families, repositories of culture and heritage, and vital centres of community life. The loss of our towns represents a betrayal of our shared history and identity as a nation.

It is imperative that we take immediate and decisive action to reverse this trend.

County councils and our politicians must prioritise the revitalisation of small towns, investing in infrastructure, promoting tourism, and providing support to local businesses.

This includes re-evaluating commercial rates to ensure they are fair and sustainable, as well as implementing targeted incentives to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

Furthermore, we must recognise the invaluable role that communities themselves play in the preservation and revitalisation of their towns. By fostering a sense of pride, ownership, and solidarity, we can empower local residents to take an active role in shaping the future of their towns.

We need to act now, before it is too late. We cannot afford to stand idly by as our small towns wither away.

Let us come together, as a nation, to breathe new life into these cherished communities and ensure that they continue to thrive for generations to come. – Yours, etc,


Mill Cove Gallery,


Co Kerry.