Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, wouldn’t be drawn on when, specifically, the long-awaited wool feasibility study is to be published, during question time in the Dáil last week.

However, he did confirm that the study has reached the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and would be published in a number of weeks.

In seeking confirmation on the study’s current status, Deputy Catherine Connolly asked:

“Where is it? When is going to be published? What are the reasons for the delay?”

As part of his response, the minister said:

“There is huge potential for us to develop a wool industry here in Ireland to help drive increased returns to our sheep-farming families.

“Over the last couple of years, for a product that used to be quite valuable, it has not been covering the costs of clipping,” Minister McConalogue said.

Cost of the report
When asked what the final cost of the report will be, due to the fact that it is delayed, Minister McConalogue said “€100,000 was committed to the project”.

He added:

“The final report has been received and is expected to be published in the coming weeks.

“Given that wool is a natural substance that is sustainable, organic and renewable and can be used in a variety of products such as textiles, fertiliser and insulation, it makes great sense to investigate its potential.”

Wool feasibility study – timeline

March 2021 – public consultation initiated to identify terms of reference for the review of the potential demand for wool-based products, such as for insulation and fertilisers in domestic and international markets.
July 2021 – request for tenders seeking service providers to carry out the feasibility study was published.
November 2021 – Minister McConalogue appoints ‘The Agile Executive’, a consortium of experts from Munster Technological University and Donegal Yarns, to conduct this study.
May 2022 – Minister McConalogue says the final report is with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and “it will be published in the next short period – over the next few weeks”.

Despite the minister’s detailed response, outlining the government’s commitment to conducting the study, and to exploring the potential of the wool industry, Deputy Connolly said:

“What jumps out of that response gives life to the cliché of ‘pulling the wool over our eyes’.”

Pressing the minister further, Deputy Connolly added:

“Where is the feasibility study? What is the delay? Part of the terms of reference surely included a timespan. Has that timespan been exceeded? If so, why? The only positive thing I heard from the minister is that the final report is with the department. Is it going to be published?”

Minister McConalogue told Deputy Connolly that the completion of the report took longer than hoped.

“But we were pushing hard to keep it moving along. Thankfully, we now have the report and it will be published in the next short period – over the next few weeks,” he said.

“Our objective has to be to see how we can add value to wool. Its traditional use is in regard to clothing and while that market has become depressed, there are new potential uses for it.

“I hope this report will provide potential opportunities and then, as a government, we will look to see how we can try to work on delivering on those opportunities.

“It is something we owe to our sheep farmers and also something we owe to the sustainability of the sector overall because it is such a tremendous natural product.”

Responding, Deputy Connolly said the same language has been used repeatedly in relation to the study.

“I welcome the minister’s confirmation that it is going to be published, which is positive news.

“It was going to be published “shortly”; “in the first quarter of 2022”; “very soon”; and so on. At some stage, words have to mean something instead of woolly language.

“Forgive me for this stretching of clichés and stretching of words but we are drowning in responses like this,” she said.

“I will take the best part of the response today, which is that it is going to be published in the next few months,” she said.