Rathlin Celebrates Becoming Ireland's First Fairtrade Island

Friday 8 March 2013

L to R: Michael Cecil, Johnny Sheehan, Stephen Ryan, Cllr Padraig McShane, Martha Lunji, Jessica Bates, Chris McCaughan and David Quinney Mee (All Photos: Tom McDonnell)

On Friday 1st March over 50 people came together in Bruce’s Kitchen to celebrate Rathlin becoming Ireland's first ever Fairtrade island.

Michael Cecil, RDCA Committee Chair

Michael Cecil, RDCA Chair welcomed everyone to the celebration and Jessica Bates of the island’s Fairtrade group presented the story of how the island’s Fairtrade status had been achieved.

Martha Lunji, Kabadwa Cane Growers’ Association, Malawi

The island also welcomed Martha Priscilla Lunji – a sugar cane producer from Malawi. Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world and Martha spoke movingly about the many positive, practical impacts these commitments have on her community.

Martha is now the third Fairtrade producer from the developing world to be hosted on the island; in 2011, Anna Michael Mlay came from Tanzania, and in 2012 Sigfredo Benitez visited from El Salvador.

Johnny Sheehan, Fairtrade Ireland

“In 2003 Clonakilty, West Cork was the first town in the whole of Ireland to attain Fairtrade Town status,” said Johnny Sheehan of Fairtrade Ireland. “Since then, almost 50 other communities have been added to the list. This year, ten years on, it is a privilege to be here, in the opposite corner of Ireland as Rathlin receives its own Fairtrade status, the first Irish island to receive this recognition.” Johnny congratulated the Rathlin community on this achievement, acknowledging the work and commitment needed to attain Fairtrade Status. He then awarded the Fairtrade Status certificate to the island, received by Jessica Bates on behalf of the Fairtrade group and the community.

Cllr Padraig McShane, Moyle District Council

Johnny awarded a second certificate to Moyle Cllr Padraig McShane. In 2001, Moyle District Council passed a resolution to support and promote Fairtrade producers. Cllr McShane commended Rathlin on achieving Fairtrade status and on showing a way forward for the District, hoping it may encourage others to consider a similar commitment. Chris McCaughan, Northern Ireland Co-operative Chair also assured the group that he would be promoting Rathlin’s Fairtrade achievement in his forthcoming meetings.

Martha Lunji and Jessica Bates with Rathlin's Fairtrade Certificate

RDCA Chair, Michael Cecil said, as he thanked Martha for her presentation, “It is good to know that what for us is a very small action, a small effort to buy Fairtrade products where possible, has such a big impact on the communities where the goods are produced.” Michael paid tribute to the hard work and commitment of the island’s Fairtrade group, and particularly to Jessica Bates, Stephen Ryan, Liz Withers and Alison McFaul for organising a very successful celebration of this significant moment for Fairtrade, for Rathlin and for the many families and communities whose lives are improved through these efforts.

Patricia McCurdy and Jane McVeigh of St Mary's Primary School enjoy a glass of Fairtrade wine

The celebration continued with a free glass of Fairtrade wine, courtesy of McCuaig’s Bar and the Fairtrade group, and a variety of Fairtrade goods for sale from two of the island’s small businesses and the Fairtrade group. Free Fairtrade samples from ‘Tropical Wholefoods’ and ‘Harry’s Nuts’ were also distributed.

Jessica Bates, Jane McVeigh and Patricia McCurdy with pupils from St Mary's

Alison McFaul at the Rathlin Island Seafoods stall

Julie-Ann McMullan and Liz Withers sing a song of welcome to the event's visitors

Crucial to the successful application for Fairtrade Island status has been support from local businesses and organisations, and of course the Rathlin Island community itself. St Mary’s Primary School, always ready to support the island’s ventures, presented an informative and attractive display for the evening. Rathlin’s Fairtrade group is now looking forward to adding to the range of Fairtrade products available on the island, and developing its work.

David Quinney Mee

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