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Do hurleys need special EU protection?

One MEP says that hurling “is in the blood of the Irish people”.

Image: Jeff Meade via Flickr/Creative Commons

THE WATERFORD BLAA has it, and there are calls for Cork’s spiced beef and boxty to get it too.

Now hurleys could be next on the list for the special EU ‘Protected Geographical Indication’ (PGI) status.

One Irish MEP thinks that Irish hurleys definitely deserve protection, but what do the hurley manufacturers think?

Torpey Hurleys

Sean Torpey of Torpey Hurleys, which was set up by his great uncle over 100 years ago and is now run by his father, told TheJournal.ie:

The connection between the hurley maker and player is quite strong – preserving that would be important.

He said that the recent ash dieback has affected some hurley manufacturers, but not all. Torpey Hurleys gets it ash from sustainable forests in Holland, so it wasn’t badly affected.

They turned to Holland as they were having issues getting the quantity of quality ash needed. “We naturally had to start looking for the best ash in the world and that was in Holland,” said Torpey.

He said that there is competition with hurley makers based outside Ireland, but it doesn’t seem to pose too much of a worry to the Torpey family.

There is competition, yeah definitely. But thankfully the hurling customer trusts their hurley maker in Ireland. I think the connection between the hurley maker and hurley player is quite strong.”

He said that the hurley making and hurley manufacturing industry is small – around 100 businesses – and mainly done by family businesses that are indigenous to Ireland.

“The secrets of the trade have been passed down through generations, families in most cases. I think although the game is going worldwide, to ensure quality remains the same worldwide maybe [EU protection] can be looked at.”

Torpey said that his business would welcome the chance to speak to MEP Phil Prendergast about the issue and how it might affect them, but they weren’t weighing behind the campaign just yet.

”Hurling is in our blood’

Phil Prendergast, speaking to Karen Coleman on Radioep.ie, explained why she thinks EU protection is needed for hurleys.

“Hurling is in the blood of Irish people,” she asserted.

Hurling is an indigenous game in Ireland, it’s associated with Ireland, there’s hurling teams now I know in many corners of the world because we have so many young people who have left our shores.

Prendergast said Ireland is “importing a huge amount of hurleys from abroad now”, and that EU protection would help to preserve the industry here.

This is a product we should not be importing – we should have the remit within our own country to have protected status.

The status would “give producers protection against products being made and marketed outside a specific region”.

Ireland would qualify as specific region itself, while the hurley would qualify for having a “specific quality, goodwill or a characteristic property” which is attributed to its geographical region.

The protection “would mean that local business would have a positive benefit for many years”, she said.

It should seek the status because it qualifies under qualification criteria – it must be from an area , it must have a function and a role in the area.

“I think hurleys have the means to have a qualifying role in their own and I do feel they should have a protected status,” she said.

Read: VAT on hurleys to remain at 23% despite ash dieback problems>

Read: The “Waterford blaa” is now a protected term>

Read: ‘Boxty’ could be the latest Irish term to get EU protection>

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