The Donegal name is synonymous with one of Ireland’s most revered counties and also with its most famous heritage brand, Donegal Tweed.

But did you know that just because its called Donegal tweed doesn't mean that it was actually woven there?

The truth is there are few authentic manufacturers of Donegal tweed left in the county today and they cannot patent the name because it's a geographical place, not just a brand.

So what can be done?

Is there a way to protect both the brand name and the highly sought after fabric? More to the point, is there a way to prevent materials manufactured in other areas from using the Donegal name?

In 2015 Fine Gael's Mairead McGuinness supported a European Parliament resolution that would see Donegal tweed receive EU protection status.

This move would acknowledge Donegal tweeds cultural heritage, helping to boost production locally, a win-win for the county and its internationally revered heritage industry. It would also return the name to the county where the tweed is made.

But the move has yet to be adopted. Why it's taking so long is anyone guess.

Colm Sweeney of the Ardara Heritage Centre told the Irish American Post back in 2003, "When you buy a yard of Donegal tweed, it's not just a yard, it's a lot of Irish history you're buying."

He's right. We should be attentive to that long history, because it's already one of the best ways we can represent ourselves abroad. People who have never been there and who could not find it on a map are nevertheless proud wearers of the tweed.

So whilst our Tourist board are busy promoting Donegal as the coolest place on earth this year why not promote one of the things that makes Donegal cool?

Back in the late 1960s when the Irish government was setting up the now famous Kilkenny design workshops they invited a group of Scandinavian designers to come over and write a report about the state of Irish design and manufacturing.

What does Ireland produce that we should focus on, the government asked them? The visiting designers toured the country and replied that the government should invest more in education about design; and of all the industries they said Donegal Tweed was the most valuable facet of the Irish design industry.

Protect it, they said. They even suggested the government set up a museum to teach its history. But their suggestions were ignored. The Irish government determined Donegal Tweed was a dying industry. Told that they were sitting on a gold mine, they decided the only thing to do was to shutter it.

Our current government needs to take a much more far-seeing approach.

The international market for luxury Irish heritage products is already an international success story that is still only being appreciated. It deserves more of our attention and our respect.


Molloy & Sons Donegal TweedMolloy & Sons