Rathlin becomes Ireland’s first Fairtrade island

RATHLIN Island was officially awarded Fairtrade status last week becoming Ireland’s first ever Fairtrade Island.

The small island community - with a population of just over 100 – was granted this accolade jointly by Fairtrade Ireland and the UK’s Fairtrade Foundation.

Speaking before a packed audience on the island, Johnny Sheehan of Fairtrade Ireland congratulated the Rathlin community on their achievement, and acknowledged all of the work and commitment needed to attain Fairtrade Status.

The island also welcomed Martha Priscilla Lunji – a sugar cane producer from Malawi – who spoke movingly about the many positive impacts that Fairtrade has had on her community.

Michael Cecil, Chair of the Rathlin Development & Community Association welcomed everyone to the celebration and Councillor Padraig McShane spoke on behalf of Moyle District Council.

The island’s Fairtrade Group has been working with local businesses on Rathlin for over two years, and has now hosted three visits from Fairtrade producers from the developing world. In 2011, Anna Michael Mlay came from Tanzania, and in 2012 Sigfredo Benitez visited from El Salvador.

Fairtrade products are available or are used in the island’s grocery shop, Manor House guesthouse, Rathlin Island Seafoods, Soapbox, Coolnagrock B&B, and the RSPB Seabird Centre, among others. Fairtrade tea, coffee and sugar are also used in many workplaces such as the island’s Resource Centre and in the Emergency Centre, used by Rathlin’s volunteer Coastguard and Fire Service teams.

The celebration concluded with a free glass of Fairtrade wine, and a variety of Fairtrade goods for sale from two of the island’s small businesses. Free Fairtrade samples from Tropical Wholefoods and Harry’s Nuts were also popular with the attendance.

Crucial to the successful application for Fairtrade Island status has been support from the Rathlin Development & Community Association, St Mary’s Primary School on the island – who produced a colourful display for the evening, local businesses and organisations, Moyle District Council, and of course the Rathlin Island community itself. The Fairtrade Foundation and Fairtrade Ireland provided crucial support and encouragement, and now Rathlin’s Fairtrade group is looking forward to further developing the range of Fairtrade products available on the island, and continuing its work.