18 September 2015
By Bryan T. Smyth
Cork based Deirdre Clune has welcomed the decision of the European Commission to explore the possibility of extending the European geographical scheme to nonagricultural products. Traditional Irish products from Cork Crystal to Clones Lace to hurleys have all been identified in an EU report as products that could soon enjoy extra protection in the form of geographical indications, reassuring consumers about their origin and quality.
Welcoming the initiative, MEP Clune described it as a boost for rural Ireland.
“A geographical indication on a product, such as Parma Ham and Champagne, can give a product an air of exclusivity making the brand more unique, high end and original. It also prevents cheap imitation products trying to cash in on the popularity of a particular product. Since the Waterford Blaa secured recognised status in 2013, it has gone from a local favourite to securing lucrative contracts with airlines and can now be found in such far flung places as Abu Dhabi. The Waterford Blaa can now only be made in the Waterford region.
“Protection to non-agricultural products at EU-level such as Cork Crystal and Limerick Lace will harmonise the patchwork of laws that currently exist at national levels within the EU.
“Geographical protection already exists for food products and in Ireland this includes Clare Island Salmon (received 1999), Timoleague Brown Pudding (2000), Connemara Hill Lamb (2007), Waterford Blaa (2013) and Imokilly Regato (1999). Ireland has been slower than other countries to apply for food product geographic protection. The Department of Agriculture should lead a charge here in encouraging producers to apply, taking advantage of Ireland’s reputation as a home of quality food.
“Many Irish traditional products are based on traditional knowledge and production methods. The types of products that would qualify for this protection are ceramics, pottery, stone, marble, lace, traditional fabric, as well as jewelry, including precious stones. The European Commission has identified more than 800 products EU wide that are likely to benefit from it.
“In France, in certain sectors such as textile, companies estimate that the protection of non-agricultural indications could lead to an increase of up to 25% in international demand. An effective EU scheme could grow brands in rural Ireland and sustain and create jobs.
“It will also have the added benefit of encouraging tourism by promoting particular areas of Ireland. MEPs will vote on this report during the next plenary session on 6 October in Strasbourg.
“The Irish products that were listed in the European Commission’s report as been suitable for this kind of protection were Borris Lace Carrickmacross Lace, Cavan Crystal, Clones Lace, Cork Crystal, Donegal Tweed, Galway Crystal, Hurleys, Kenmare lace, Kilkenny Crystal, Limerick Lace, Newbridge Silverware, Sligo Crystal, Tipperary Crystal, Uilleann Pipe and Waterford Crystal.