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Twelve charming things to have in mind if you want to buy Irish

Buying Irish supports local jobs and communities but check it's authentic first


Rachel Corcoran door illustration

Rachel Corcoran door illustration

Rachel Corcoran door illustration

The pandemic has prompted many of us to buy local - and given so many Irish businesses are battling to survive the third lockdown, it's certainly a worthy thing to do.

Buying local also helps support local jobs, your local community and the Irish economy. There are plenty of quirky and interesting things that you can buy if you want to buy Irish. Here are some of them.

Handcrafted piece of Irish bog

Few things encapsulate traditional Ireland better than the image of turf stacks dotted across a mountainous or boggy landscape. So a gift handcrafted from Irish bog could have a real appeal for many people - and Bog Buddies is a family business in the Midlands which sells such framed gifts.

"Our family grew up in Athlone, very close to the bog in Clonown," said Ethel Kelly, founder of Bog Buddies. "This was always a favourite walking spot for us as children and still is to this day. In 2009, my brothers Anthony and Vinny and I came up with the idea to start making a unique Irish gift from real Irish turf. We have a family bog that my brothers collect the turf from and we shape the pieces in the workshop."

Gifts can be customised to include a special greeting and the name of the person it is being bought for. The business's most popular products include 'Home is where the heart is' (priced at €45 for the large gift) and its 'Love Birds' wedding gift. You can buy Bog Buddies' products on bogbuddies.com.

Dublin street sign fridge magnets

Fridge magnets often remind us of sunny destinations abroad. However, given the lockdown has prompted so many of us to get reacquainted with our local area, you may now wish to have a few magnets from closer to home on your fridge door. Quirky Irish Icons sells personalised Dublin street sign fridge magnets for €5.95 apiece. It also sells fridge magnets dedicated to Dublin food and landmarks - including the Poolbeg chimneys.

Dubliner Patricia Pierce set up the business in 2014. She came up with the idea after seeking a gift for a nephew who moved to Dubai. Pierce wanted a quirky gift with a bit of Irish character which could be posted easily - and when she couldn't find anything to fit the bill, she created her own fridge magnets. You can buy them on quirkyirishicons.ie.

Dublin door prints

A nice memento from home for those living in the capital are the prints and cards of Dublin doors - by the Dublin illustrator and designer, Rachel Corcoran. Some of Dublin City's famous Georgian doors feature in her pieces - as do Irish gardens and flowers. "2020 was a year which saw a huge switch to buying Irish," said Corcoran. "Previously my customer base was largely international - however last year was the complete opposite and so, I designed more and more Irish-themed products." Corcoran's cards and prints can be bought online at rachelcorcoran.net.

St Brigid's Cross suncatcher

The St Brigid's Cross is a unique Irish cross which is traditionally made in rushes or reeds. A stained-glass suncatcher version of this cross is available from the Mayo business Ard aLume. The business - which sells stained-glass gifts in Irish designs - was set up by a Polish couple who moved to Ireland in 2004.

"When going through a very sad time in my life, I took the opportunity to teach myself the art of creating stained-glass pieces," said Magda Dubaj, co-founder of Ard aLume. "It evolved into a business when I realised that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life." Some of the business's most popular pieces are its St Brigid's Cross (priced from €15) and its rainbow suncatchers. You can buy the products from ArdaLume.com.

Ogham jewellery

Ogham is an ancient Irish alphabet and believed to be the earliest form of writing in Ireland. It's no surprise then that many are drawn to jewellery with Ogham inscriptions. A number of Irish jewellery designers handcraft Ogham jewellery - including Eoghan McGuinness, the founder of Arnua.

Arnua's handcrafted Celtic jewellery includes a range of designs inspired by the Irish landscape, Newgrange, Celtic knots in the Book of Kells, and the Claddagh.

McGuinness, who has been working in the field for almost 20 years, set up Arnua in 2016. "I have always had an interest in Celtic artwork, Irish history and design," said McGuinness. "I always wanted to be my own boss and five years ago, I decided it was time to be brave and go for it. I focused on creating some unique Celtic designs with a contemporary twist - and with just a handful of pieces, I set up my online shop. Since then, my collection has grown to over 200 original designs." Arnua jewellery can be bought from arnua.com.

Positivity bracelets

Clare jewellery store Blackbird has tapped into some of the trends which have emerged over lockdown. Just before Christmas, it launched its own range of positivity bracelets - which are priced at €25 each. "We had noticed people sending each other little lockdown gifts," said Katie Rogers, founder of Blackbird. "The idea [of the positivity bracelets] is for women to be kind to both themselves and others. Each bracelet is made with a different inspirational word."

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Rogers opened Blackbird in September 2019 - after working in another jewellery store in Ennis for 13 years. Her store sells jewellery from Irish and international designers.

"Five months after I opened, I had to close due to the coronavirus," said Rogers. "It was just coming up to Mother's Day and I had anticipated a busy summer ahead - so I was fully stocked. At the time, I had no website or plans to expand my business online. In March, it was sink or swim for me - I quickly learned to adapt and with the help of my brother in-law, launched the website blackbirdennis.ie."

Working-from-home desk

Another company which has tapped into lockdown trends is Flying Elephant. Originally an events company, it reinvented itself during the pandemic. "All our other work [in events] disappeared overnight and we saw a bit of a niche with office furniture as everyone was starting to work from home," said its managing director Michael Keelan. The company now sells Irish-made home office and other furniture, toys and gifts. The company's work-from-home desk, which is priced from €149, is one of its most popular products. Products can be bought at flyingelephant.ie.

Irish-themed jigsaw puzzles

Gosling Gifts and Games sells a range of Irish-themed games and jigsaw puzzles - including the Discovering Ireland board game (priced at €23 on the business's website). "Our orders have shot up since the pandemic hit," said Mary Gosling, who set up the business in 1987. "Parents are buying our games to keep children entertained [during lockdown]." Older people are also buying the products to keep themselves busy, according to Gosling. You can buy online at goslinggiftsandgames.ie.


It can be difficult to gauge whether you're buying from an Irish company when buying online. Don't assume a website address ending in .ie is an Irish shop. "Go onto the website and see where the shop is based," said Duncan Graham, CEO of Retail Excellence Ireland. The website should have a contact address or address of its head office.

The Guaranteed Irish symbol is also an assurance that you're buying local and the website guaranteedirishgifts.ie features businesses with this symbol. Not every Irish business has the Guaranteed Irish symbol - so if you want to buy local but the company doesn't have this symbol, do your research.

"Find out if the company is supporting local jobs and the community - and if they're putting money into the local economy," said Brid O'Connell, CEO of Guaranteed Irish. "A green, white and gold flag or shamrock symbol on the packaging doesn't mean it's an Irish product - in fact, very often, it means the opposite."

Another thing to be wary of when buying online is delivery charges as they can be high. As always, buyer beware.

Sweets, treats and tipples

Handpainted chocolates

Grá Chocolates was set up by Galway pastry chef Gráinne Mullins last July. “The idea came from Easter last year when I wanted to create beautiful chocolate eggs for my friends and family,” said Mullins. “I couldn't believe the reaction when people were looking to buy them from me”. Three months later, she launched her own chocolate business. Her individually handpainted chocolates can be bought online from grachocolates.com. The business's original box of chocolates — the Grá chocolate box — costs €25.


Rocky road & chocolate fudge cake

Cork pastry shop and cafe Praline reinvented itself as a pastry and chocolate shop over lockdown. It launched its artisan chocolate range last year — its caramelised hazelnut milk chocolate bar and chocolate dipped honeycomb nuggets proved to be particular hits with customers. Its owner Norma Kelly set up the business in 2017. “When Covid hit, we, like so many other food businesses had to close last March,” said Kelly. During the first lockdown, Praline took orders for click-and-collect on Saturdays. “When we were allowed to reopen last June, we decided to stay as a takeaway business because we had such a small cafe, it would have been difficult for us to keep tables two metres apart,” said Kelly. “We partitioned off half the shop — so that additional work space has become the chocolate production area. Going online has been a big part of keeping our business going.” Some of Praline's most popular cakes are its rocky road slices and its Belgian chocolate fudge cake. (The six-inch chocolate fudge cake costs €20.) The Praline shop is open Wednesday to Saturday for takeaway and click-and-collect orders. Its handmade chocolates and some of its small cakes can be bought online on praline.ie.


Handmade cookies

The West Cork Biscuit Co sells individually handmade cookies and biscuits. Its founders Richard and Jane Graham-Leigh began producing their biscuits in 2003. The ginger spice is currently the company's most popular biscuit. “Previously it was the oat and raisin cookie — which took over from the chocolate chip cookie,” said Richard Graham-Leigh. The biscuits can be bought from its website (regale.ie) — as well as from many Supervalu shops. A case of six packets of its oat and raisin cookies costs €20.70 on its website.


Home gin kit

Longford's Lough Ree Distillery developed its own home gin-making kit during the pandemic. The kit — Sling Shot Gin School at Home — contains everything needed to blend a bottle of gin. “The kits provide a bit of fun and entertainment — and are something different to the banana bread, Zoom quizzes and constant Netflix,” said CEO Peter Clancy. A kit costs €49 plus delivery and can be bought on lrd.ie.

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