The Irish Grown Wool Council’s (IGWC) has rejected criticism from the Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture over the government’s decision to gift items made of 60% Irish wool and blended with 40% New Zealand wool as part of its St. Patrick’s Day programme.

This year Irish ministers and senators will gift woollen blankets and scarves to various dignitaries in the countries that they are visiting as part of the programme.

According to the IGWC it has been “transparent from the outset” about the percentage of Irish wool used in its St Patrick’s Day campaign.

St. Patrick’s Day programme

The Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture, Claire Kerrane, said that, in her opinion, the government “had missed an opportunity” as part of the St. Patrick’s Day programme to gift items which were made completely with wool sourced from the island.

But in response Catherine Phibbs, interim chair, of the IGWC said: “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.

“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.“

Scarf cable stitch Source: Irish Grown Wool Council (IGWC)

According to IGWC member, Chris Weiniger, who is the general manager of Donegal Yarns, from the outset the organisation wanted “transparency and to emphasise the importance of identifying the reality of the state of Irish wool”.

He said it was also important to highlight the “challenges and opportunities for an all-Ireland approach to working collectively to support industry from the primary producer right through the supply chain.”

The IGWC has detailed that in conjunction with its research partners at the Wool Hub it is also investigating innovation in wool scouring methods that will “explore softening Irish-grown wool for greater use across wider categories”.

“Our recent wool panel talks at Showcase Ireland in January outline the potential for innovation in scouring methods.

“The IGWC is currently in discussions with key stakeholders about the economic potential for a scouring facility on the Island of Ireland and ways to realise this for sustainable and commercial development of Irish-grown wool,” the organisation outlined.

According to the IGWC it has invited Deputy Claire Kerrane to review the Department of Agriculture’s 2022 Review of Market Opportunities for Irish Grown Wool Based Products’ report “to fully understand the complex challenges and opportunities for the Irish-grown wool sector”.

“The Irish Grown Wool Council are happy to engage directly with Deputy Claire Kerrane to discuss challenges, opportunities and supports for the Irish-grown wool sector and its primary producers,” it added.