Irish Grown Wool Council launch international campaign for St.Patrick’s Day 2024

12th March 2024

Several Irish Ministers and Senators will gift Irish grown woollen blankets and scarves to dignitaries overseas during the week of St Patrick’s Day as part of the Government’s annual international programme to promote Ireland.

The Irish Grown Wool Council (IGWC), formed in April 2023, will mark its first St.Patrick’s Day with an international campaign to highlight the viability and sustainability of Irish grown wool.
Their objective is to transform Irish grown wool; an underutilised and undervalued resource, into a branded value-added product for the benefit of primary producers and the wider supply chain. IGWC was formed as a result of recommendations from the 2022 report ‘Review Of Market Opportunities For Irish-Grown Wool Based Products’ from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

This week the IGWC celebrates St. Patrick’s Day by sharing Irish grown woollen products globally. IGWC commissioned bespoke knitted white woollen throws and emerald green scarves, using Irish grown wool sourced from farms on the Island of Ireland. These items are being presented and distributed by members of the IGWC to Irish Ministers and Senators this week to wear and gift while travelling abroad on their trade missions to promote “Ireland’s Future in the World”.

The Irish Grown Wool Council is a voluntary body with an all-island approach. Its purpose is to promote an Irish grown wool brand both domestically and internationally. Designed to create awareness of the bioeconomic characteristics of wool, increase the value in the total wool chain and ensure that a fair proportion of this value reaches the primary producer.

Wool for the gifts for this international campaign was spun by Donegal Yarns, Kilcar, knitted by Bonner of Ireland, Ardara, with IGWC logo motif embroidery organised by IGWC member Alison Gault at Belfast School of Art, Ulster University.

Speaking about the importance of this campaign Catherine Phibbs, Interim Chair, IGWC stated: “This is a significant opportunity to showcase Irish grown wool to the world. Representatives of our State engage in an extensive international programme to promote Ireland and Irish interests and values around the world during St.Patrick’s Week and now Irish grown wool is a visible part of this year’s global story. The Irish Grown Wool Council through its expert working groups is developing collaborations nationally and internationally to apply innovative solutions to address current challenges and create pioneering innovation in bio-fibers and sustainable practices.”

Recent shifts in global economies, market demands and the emergence of unsustainable fibres have significantly impacted the Irish grown wool industry. The Irish Grown Wool Council brings wool stakeholders together to realise the true potential of Irish grown wool, locally and globally.

IGWC member Chris Weiniger, General Manager, Donegal Yarns added: “This is an all island industry-led campaign, it demonstrates that the supply chains exist and have the capability to be scaled up. Donegal Yarns together with Bonner of Ireland have supported this initiative to demonstrate the viability of Irish grown wool; a natural, indigenous and sustainable resource. Irish grown wool has value; it is naturally antibacterial, hypo-allergenic and temperature regulating, as well as being sustainable, renewable and compostable. Wool related businesses all over Ireland are starting to work closer together now, from farm to yarn, to research and development; industry are supporting each other to develop the scope for Irish grown wool across all sectors. A key objective of IGWC Research & Development working group is to improve the average micron/breeding to reduce the % of imported wool.”

IGWC’s vision is to bring wool stakeholders from across the island of Ireland together to realise the potential of Irish grown wool as a natural, sustainable and versatile material. Building on a rich heritage to enhance the understanding and appreciation of the characteristics of Irish wool, improving the quality and sustainability of Irish grown wool and to facilitate collaboration in product and market research to ultimately apply innovative product solutions.

Eamonn Bonner, of the family knitwear business ‘Bonner of Ireland’ commented “We were delighted to be able to collaborate with Donegal Yarn and the Irish Grown Wool Council. Irish grown wool is a natural, indigenous and sustainable resource that showcases the rich cultural and fibre heritage of Ireland. Reputedly St.Patrick spent time as a shepherd, so there is a direct wool link for marking Ireland’s patron saint’s day. We knitted the throws and scarves using ‘Irish Heather Yarn’ from Donegal Yarns, which has 60% fine Irish wool*, sourced from farms across the island of Ireland, blended with 40% New Zealand wool. The emerald green scarves have been knitted in a traditional cable stitch and the white woollen throws have been knitted in a combination of heritage stitches including Basket Stitch, Cable Stitch, Honeycomb Stitch, Zig-Zag Stitch and our Tree of Life Cable Stitch, reflecting the care and craftsmanship of our local creative industries.”

St Patrick’s Day is an unparalleled opportunity to promote Ireland as a great place to visit, work, study, trade with, and invest in. This year, in all, 38 representatives of the State will bring Ireland’s message to 86 cities in 48 countries.
Irish Grown Wool Council is a voluntary body with an all-island approach. It will launch an ambitious business plan in the coming weeks and seeks support from Government and stakeholders. It welcomes support and input from stakeholders. Connect with the IGWC via their website.

Ministers who have received Irish grown woollen items for St. Patrick’s Day and / or future trade missions include:

  • Minister Pippa Hackett, Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine / Visiting Finland; Estonia, Latvia
  • Minister Charlie McConalogue, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine of Ireland, / Visiting Kenya; Ethiopia, South Sudan
  • Minister Malcolm Noonan, Minister for Nature, Heritage & Electoral Reform / / Visiting Poland, Romania
  • Minister Eamon Ryan, Minister for the Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport / Visiting Brazil
  • Minister Martin Heydon, Minister of State with responsibility for Research and Development, Farm Safety, and New Market Development / Visiting Germany
  • Senator Timmy Dooley, Spokesperson on Climate Action, Communication Networks & Transport / Visiting United States; Washington
  • Minister Ossian Smyth, Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform and at the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications / Visiting Korea
  • Minister Niall Collins, Minister of State at the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science / Visiting United States; Cleveland, Pittsburgh,
  • President Michael D. Higgins and Sabina Higgins will also receive Irish grown woollen emerald green scarves to wear over the St.Patrick’s weekend celebrations and blankets to gift to dignitaries visiting Ireland.
  • Ruby Walsh and Kevin O’Ryan, horse racing presenters and commentators will also be wearing emerald green Irish grown woollen scarves during their coverage of the Cheltenham Racing Festival.

FOOTNOTE Added 14th March 2024 for clarity:

*This percentage is important to emphasise because one of the key challenges for the Irish wool sector is that the majority of Irish grown wool from our sheep breeds is greater than 30 microns in fibre diameter, making it a coarser fibre and largely unsuitable for 100% use in apparel (except for select breeds). However, the majority of the 4m sheep in Ireland are a mix of breeds and mixed breeds. Therefore we wanted to highlight that the market opportunity for the majority of Irish grown wool when being used in wearable textiles will be blending Irish grown wool with other lower micron count wool. This has the potential to create a viable new channel for using more Irish grown wool in this market.

Notes for Editors
PR Contact:
Catherine Phibbs, Interim Chair, Irish Grown Wool Council

About: Irish Grown Wool Council
The Irish Grown Wool Council was established in April 2023 based on the recommendations of a Department of Agriculture Food & Marine (DAFM) sponsored report ‘Review Of Market Opportunities For Irish-Grown Wool Based Products. IGWC is supported by a virtual Wool Research & Innovation Hub (“Wool Hub”), hosted by the MTU Circular Bioeconomy Cluster South-West where researchers from institutions across the Island of Ireland collaborate on sustainable processes and products incorporating Irish wool.

IGWC is focused on creating additional value in the total Irish grown wool chain to ensure a fair proportion goes to the primary producer. Their purpose is to promote an Irish grown wool brand, locally and globally.
IGWC works with primary producers, industry, enterprise, education, general public, media, partners, agencies and research providing organisations and Governments, (nationally and internationally).
IGWC’s objective is to transform Irish grown wool; an underutilised and undervalued resource, into a branded value-added product for the benefit of primary producers and wider supply chain. They are working to achieve this through their expert working groups, each tasked with one or more of the objectives.

* Research & Development
* Wool Quality & Presentation
* Governance & Fundraising
* Brand & Marketing
* Education & Outreach

Connect with the IGWC via their website.

About Donegal Yarns
Donegal Yarns operate a complete vertical production process from sourcing raw wool, through dyeing, blending, carding and spinning to a finished multi-colour flecked yarn targeted at the weaving, knitting and craft industries. All products are made in Ireland with production carried out at their wool spinning mill in Kilcar, Co Donegal. A team of craftsmen and technicians, using skills handed down through generations, work to produce these unique yarns. Combining the use of traditional and state of the art machinery, the marriage of old and new also makes for an easy production process compliant with the latest standards. There is no compromise on quality and the tradition is maintained.

About: Bonner of Ireland
Bonner of Ireland is a family run company originally established in 1976 by Cornelius and Bernadette Bonner. Located in Ardara, South West Donegal the business is now run by son Eamonn Bonner. They employ the best mastercrafts people in Donegal to produce the highest quality knitwear in traditional and contemporary styles. From their location in the heart of the Donegal Mountains they use the everlasting colours of the rugged landscape to inspire them with colour and design. The distinctive features of a Bonner knit encompass the use of high-quality, durable yarns knitted into timeless cable patterns, all crafted with expert skill and craftsmanship.

About: Belfast School of Art, Ulster University
Belfast School of Art plays a central role in the cultural and creative life of the city. Fostering innovation in dynamic workshops and studios. BA Hons Textile Art, Design and Fashion offers practice-based study in Textiles and Fashion within the areas of embroidery, fashion, knit, print and weave supported by professional practice and research and writing. Their approach to textiles and fashion explores both tradition and innovation in well-equipped studios and workshops.