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Guaranteed Irish: How members are making an impact on communities all over Ireland

Member companies such as Chapters Bookstore, Glenisk, Wavin Ireland, Donegal Bees, Fleetwood Paints and PTSB desire strong engagement with their local communities

For Guaranteed Irish members, it all starts with community. Not alone do companies belonging to the organisation provide jobs the length and breadth of the country, to be accepted as members, they must first demonstrate a strong engagement with their local communities. They do this through donations, sponsorships, fundraisers and much more. Here are great examples of companies doing exactly that.

Chapters Bookstore

Chapters Bookstore on Dublin’s Parnell Street is Ireland’s largest independent bookstore, and possibly its best loved.

When news emerged it was to close in 2020 after 40 years in business, it caused an outpouring of angst on traditional and social media.


Kevin Neary and Michael Finucane, who got their start opening a games business in the back of Chapters in 1994, saved the day, buying it from retiring founder Willie Kinsella.

“People feel a real grá for Chapters, so we’re immensely lucky. We just have to take care of it and make sure we don’t break it,” says Finucane.

“It’s an institution, and we try to be as conscious as possible of that. With anything we do, we ask ourselves what the Chapters customer would think – because they feel very passionately about it and community is a big part of that. We are north Dublin city centre’s local bookshop, a community of readers, authors and publishers.”

Chapters runs regular free events with authors, illustrators, small independent publishers, self-published authors and community groups.

The store has a strong relationship with the Simon Community, hosting the launch of its book Scrappy but Happy, featuring art, poetry and stories from people who are homeless.

“Homelessness is something we feel very strongly about. Nobody chooses to sleep in a doorway if they had any other option, and Simon plays an incredible role in helping people to turn their life around,” Finucane says.

Chapters donates books to schools, youth and social groups, and offers discounts to students, frontline workers and Dublin transport workers. It has very strong links with the LGBT+ community, selling LGBT+ books and having provided a meeting space since before 1993, he points out.

“We are a bookshop for everyone. Chapters has been doing the circular economy for 40 years too, because you can trade in your books here. It’s important to make books as accessible as possible, because books are wonderful, they can take you anywhere, out of any situation, give you a bit of respite, and offer you a way to escape your anxiety.”


Glenisk is located on the Cleary family farm in Killeigh, Co Offaly, and has its roots in the 1980s, when Mary Cleary first began experimenting with home-made yoghurt. Today, it sources milk from organic farms all over Ireland and ships it around the world.

That’s why it engages with communities both at home and abroad. “In 2019 we began a partnership with Self Help Africa to support the One Million Trees Campaign, which ran until 2022,” explains Glenisk commercial director Emma Walls.

“Glenisk supported the campaign by providing direct funding and by raising awareness of the campaign and encouraging donations from the public. The original aim was to plant one million native trees in Africa, and 100,000 native trees in Ireland. We also planted 100,000 trees at our site in Killeigh, Co Offaly. The campaign has evolved over the years and SHA is on track to reach 35 million trees by 2026.”

Following a major fire at Glenisk in 2021, the local community provided enormous support for its recovery, something the family is keen to reciprocate.

“Offaly is a dual county with a strong heritage in both football and hurling and a very ambitious [GAA] county board who are keen to see greater investment in the county than existed historically. Glenisk came on board as main GAA sponsor in early 2022. It was very important for us to support both sexes, all codes and all ages,” explains Walls.

“With this in mind, we became main sponsor for Offaly GAA, Offaly LGFA, Offaly Camogie, Offaly Go Games, a children’s programme, and Offaly Cumann na mBunscoil. We also acquired the naming rights to the main GAA ground in Tullamore – O’Connor Park. Product sponsorship is part of this, but primarily it is financial backing to assist the county in realising its potential and supporting the ambitions of the community,” she says.

Wavin Ireland

Plastic pipe maker Wavin Ireland dates to the 1950s. So does its ethos of giving back to the community.

“Corporate and social responsibility is really important to us,” says Michael O’Donohoe, country director at Wavin Ireland.

In the 1960s, when the company was considering moving from its original site in Drumcondra to its current site in Balbriggan, there was a question over whether or not the new plant would have enough water.

“As a back-up, a large adjacent site with a lake was acquired. In the end we didn’t need it, so it was given over to Gormanston angling club on a 99-year lease in 1993. It’s a beautiful area you can walk around, which dates back to a time when the site housed a cotton mill,” O’Donohoe says.

More recently, the company supported the development of a new 400-seat amphitheatre by the Irish Institute of Music and Song, based in Balbriggan. “We supported its construction with a storm water management system which releases water into the ground over time,” he adds.

The company also works with an environmental initiative, Bí Urban, which encourages rain gardens in urban areas, supplying kits that capture rainwater from gutters, diverting it to water flower boxes and flower beds.

The company supports local football and athletic clubs and a horticultural society, while staff are given time off to volunteer. The company also provides land for Remember Us, a social group for people with special needs and their families, to develop a sensory garden. It also supports Focus Ireland, the homeless charity, “which resonates very strongly with Wavin”, O’Donohoe says.

“All these organisations rely on the goodwill of the business community to support them, and all of them fit with our purpose and values as a company.”

Donegal Bees

Given their vital role as pollinators, and fears over their demise, anything that helps to foster bees automatically helps the global community. Donegal Bees in Glencolmcille does that and more, stocking more than 1,000 products for beekeepers nationwide.

For Aine Curran, co-owner of the business and an avid beekeeper, a huge part of the satisfaction of running the business is providing local jobs in this rural community. The company employs 10 people year round, and up to 26 in the summer, the height of the season. Very often this includes local college and school students, keen to start their CVs.

The company is an avid supporter of local charity events, providing hampers packed with honey and beeswax candles for local school fundraisers.

It hosts educational visits, with children as young as three and four years of age coming from the local naonraí (preschools) to plant flowers and learn how that helps feed bees. It donated a free hive to Ethan Dewhirst, the Donegal student who won first prize in the BT Young Scientist Competition for his project on heather-derived honey versus manuka honey, and sponsored local Irish dancer Cian McGinley in his efforts to raise funds to attend the World Irish Dancing Championships in the United States, where he finished third.

Donegal Bees also sponsors the Glencolmcille agricultural show, donates to its local GAA team Naomh Mhuire, and partners with the Bluestack Special Needs Foundation, providing tours and work experience for people with special needs.

“We do all these things because you want to feel like you are making a difference, and so that people will realise the importance of bees. There are 100 different species of bees here, one-third of which are now in danger,” she says.

Fleetwood Paints

Fleetwood is Ireland’s second-largest paint company, employing 140 people, mostly at its headquarters in Virginia, Co Cavan.

“We started out initially making brushes and rollers for painters and decorators, before moving into paint manufacturing,” explains marketing manager Derek Byrne. The business is owned by the Doyle family, now in its third generation.

“That family element is key for us because we sell into family businesses too, your local hardware store, places like Smyth’s of Enniscorthy, who are third generation too. In fact there is a web of family-owned hardware stores in towns right across the country,” he says.

Its business is growing, in part because Irish consumers have a growing appreciation of the importance of buying Irish. “People are increasingly looking for Irish paints, that’s why being part of Guaranteed Irish has always been so important to us. During Covid particularly it became very important to buy Irish and also to reduce your carbon footprint by doing so,” he adds.

But buying local and supporting local are flip sides of the same coin. “We have a long history of reaching out to help communities and local charity groups. Over the years we have partnered with such charities as the Irish Cancer Society and St Vincent de Paul and donated massive amounts of paint. Last year we launched our Show Your Colours campaign, giving away thousands of litres of paint to large and small sports clubs and scout halls,” he says.

Fleetwood Paints recently supplied paint for a sea rescue centre and a windmill, both in Kerry.

“Our trade sales teams are approached all the time around the country to supply materials, and we do, because the hardware stores we supply are at the heart of the local community. They actively sponsor local community groups and turn to their suppliers for help. It’s very much a community-led thing, and we always support such initiatives as much as possible.”


PTSB has roots stretching back more than 200 years to the building society and savings bank movements. The bank says a customer and community-first ethos has always been a core component of its culture.

Today, having expanded its branch network by 30 per cent in recent years, PTSB has a presence in 98 retail locations nationwide and is a leading provider of retail and business banking in the Irish market, serving 1.2 million Irish customers and employing more than 3,000 people.

PTSB’s retail banking director, Patrick Farrell, says the bank is committed to having “a positive and meaningful impact in communities across Ireland, and we demonstrate this through various initiatives including our Community Fund, our Community Partnerships, National and Local Sponsorships, Schools initiatives and Volunteer Partners”.

The PTSB Community Fund supports local communities by providing funding to organisations that are having a positive and meaningful impact.

It operates across Ireland and aims to provide about €200,000 in funding annually to six local charities chosen by the public. It’s an approach that fosters a diverse range of initiatives, each addressing various community challenges. Since its establishment, the fund has contributed almost €1.8 million, including €300,000 in 2023.

PTSB staff take part in volunteering initiatives affiliated with the fund too, strengthening the community engagement approach. During 2023, more than 1,700 volunteering hours were provided on the ground in local communities.

The bank partners with Ó Cualann Cohousing Alliance, supporting the development of affordable housing schemes in communities across the country. Its partnership with LIFT Ireland supports the delivery of training to more than 35 charities and 40,000 secondary schoolchildren, to build leadership skills.

PTSB is also title sponsor of the Irish Olympic and Paralympic Teams for the 2024 Games in Paris, and sponsors the Olympic Federation of Ireland’s Dare to Believe schools programme, as well as the PTSB NextGen Athlete Pathway programme, with Paralympics Ireland.

Dare to Believe aims to bring the Olympic spirit to classrooms across Ireland and inspires young people to believe in themselves and pursue their passions, whatever they may be. PTSB NextGen’s vision is to improve access to, and participation in, sport for people living with a disability. It helps provide them with an opportunity to uncover their abilities in sports which they may not yet have had the chance to try.

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times