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An honour I never thought I would have

William (Lavelle) thank you and to John (Quinn) thank you for navigating the IWA through the recent times. I’m sure when you took on the Chair you didn’t envisage having to navigate a long term pandemic, a war, a shortage of glass/cardboard/ label/ Energy and massive inflationary pressures … and I know you didn’t start any of this … but it did happen on your watch … seriously though you have dealt with everything with steady alacrity and good sense. Thank you John.

Thank you also for asking me to be your vice chair 2 years ago. When you visited our operation in Carrick we were such a nascent operation that we still required my mums supervision on the bottling line. We have come quite a way since then and the honour of being Chair of the IWA I accept most humbly and thank everyone in advance for the support that will be needed over the next couple of years

As we look forward the key themes remain truer than ever and I am reminded of a cartoon I saw some years ago:

Protection will be a continual refrain, whether it is finalizing the GI’s or seeking to work in market to ensure that the integrity of the category is protected or even to look at new emerging categories and inform the debate like the American Single Malt. The success and momentum of the category mean that we are more than ever required to be vigilant and thank Carleen and Miriam for their watchful presence.

Sustainability is more than a table stake now, and looking at how we can take our sustainability agenda forward to build a clear path to more circular economies that under write the long term success of the industry and bring other agencies to the table to help us will be ever more important.

And as we look forward to better tourism numbers we should look to leveraging our distilleries and visitor centres as tourism hubs that moves us up the ladder of recognition. No longer just alcohol suppliers to bars, but content providers, tourist providers that are recognized for the beds our visitors fill and the value and attraction we bring to an area – we are hubs for thriving local ecosystems.

And of course championing the Irish whiskey industry and the IWA. Fostering the conditions for growth internationally , and moreover being thought leaders in a world where the inclusivity of the IWA shines and where the effectiveness of the association is demonstrated through our willingness to collaborate, to solve and to share.

I am delighted that Helen Mulholland has joined me on the team. She embodies all that is good about our industry and the whole island nature of Irish Whiskey and brings with her enormous knowledge, understanding and insight that we will now all benfit from and I am really excited to be working with her over the coming 2 years. Thank you Helen.

My last thought is for you William. John speaks really highly and David Stapleton too of their time working with you and I can only say that I have neither the wisdom of John or the charm of David but despite this accent over index with the contrariness of a Donegal man. William I wish you lots of luck – you might need it.

These are exciting times and I wish all of you a Happy Christmas hopefully with your families and hope 2022 is a year of peace, stability and success for everyone.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh