Irish Distillers’ Communications and Corporate Affairs Director, Rosemary Garth is to become the new head of the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI), following an official meeting of the group this week.

Ms. Garth assumes the role from outgoing Chairperson, Ms. Maggie Timoney of HEINEKEN Ireland, who is relocating to the US to take up a new role as Chief Executive Officer, Heineken USA.

DIGI is the representative group for the wider drinks and hospitality industry in Ireland whose membership spans manufacturers, distributors and the retail sectors, including Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland; Licenced Vintners Association; Vintners Federation of Ireland; Restaurants Association of Ireland; Irish Hotels Federation and the National Off-Licence Association.

Last week, DIGI launched its Support Your Local campaign which seeks to educate people about the broad and diversified financial and social contribution that the drinks industry makes to Ireland, while seeking to ensure its growth and development potential is promoted and protected.

The drinks industry directly employs 92,000 people while the hospitality sector as a whole supports almost 210,000 jobs throughout Ireland, purchasing €1.1bn worth of Irish inputs annually and exporting €1.25 billion worth of produce every year.

The sector, including distillers, brewers, cider producers, pubs, restaurants, hotels and off-licences are supporting and growing economic activity in Ireland, spread widely across the country, according to a recent report – ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Drinks Industry’ – commissioned by DIGI and authored by DCU Economist Anthony Foley.

The report found that the Irish drinks industry is Ireland’s fastest-growing manufacturing industry in terms of number of enterprises. For example, in 2013, there were just four working whiskey distilleries in Ireland and by 2017 there were 18, with plans for another 16.

Many distilleries and breweries are developing visitor centre facilities, increasing product awareness among local and international consumers, and opening up additional revenue streams. The Irish whiskey industry envisages Ireland becoming the global leader in whiskey tourism by 2030, overtaking Scotland.

Commenting today, Rosemary Garth, newly appointed Chair of DIGI and Communications and Corporate Affairs Director at Irish Distillers said:

“I look forward to taking up this position at such an important and exciting time for the industry. The drinks and hospitality sector continues to contribute significantly to Ireland. The industry is among the largest employers in the country and much of this employment is based in rural towns and villages.

“The recent DIGI report ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Drinks Industry’ clearly demonstrates how the industry is supporting balanced regional development through a network of rural drinks businesses across the country. We need to ensure the sector and these jobs are protected and further development in the industry is encouraged.

“Central to this is delivering policy measures which are favourable and which support growth. Through our Support Your Local campaign, DIGI is seeking a reduction in Ireland’s high excise tax rate.

“Ireland currently has the second highest overall excise tax in the EU, behind only Finland. We have the highest excise tax on wine, the second highest on beer, and the third highest on spirits. This is an anti-competitive tax on an industry that is creating new businesses, that is innovating and adding and maintaining jobs in the rural economy.”